WASHINGTON – Frequent tours for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have stressed the all-volunteer force and made it worth considering a return to a military draft, President Bush’s new war adviser said Friday.
“I think it makes sense to certainly consider it,” Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute said in an interview with National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.”
“And I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table. But ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation’s security by one means or another,” Lute added in his first interview since he was confirmed by the Senate in June.
President Nixon abolished the draft in 1973. Restoring it, Lute said, would be a “major policy shift” and Bush has made it clear that he doesn’t think it’s necessary.
“The president’s position is that the all-volunteer military meets the needs of the country and there is no discussion of a draft. General Lute made that point as well,” National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
In the interview, Lute also said that “Today, the current means of the all-volunteer force is serving us exceptionally well.”
Still, he said the repeated deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan affect not only the troops but their families, who can influence whether a service member decides to stay in the military.
“There’s both a personal dimension of this, where this kind of stress plays out across dinner tables and in living room conversations within these families,” he said. “And ultimately, the health of the all-volunteer force is going to rest on those sorts of personal family decisions.”
The military conducted a draft during the Civil War and both world wars and between 1948 and 1973. The Selective Service System, re-established in 1980, maintains a registry of 18-year-old men.
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., has called for reinstating the draft as a way to end the Iraq war.
Bush picked Lute in mid-May as a deputy national security adviser with responsibility for ensuring efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are coordinated with policymakers in Washington. Lute, an active-duty general, was chosen after several retired generals turned down the job.