By & Large

Examining the Draft

All-Volunteer Force Symposium to Reconvene

When the United States ended the draft and moved to an all-volunteer military in 1973, most political and military leaders assumed that if the United States again fought a major, long-lasting war, the nation would reactivate the draft. But that didn’t happen: the U.S. fought the long and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with an all-volunteer force (AVF), even as service members were deployed for multiple tours of duty.

When the United States ended the draft and moved to an all-volunteer military in 1973, most political and military leaders assumed that if the United States again fought a major, long-lasting war, the nation would reactivate the draft. But that didn’t happen: the U.S. fought the long and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with an all-volunteer force (AVF), even as service members were deployed for multiple tours of duty.

On Thursday, April 27, 2017, key national policy makers, former government officials, military officers and scholars who have drawn different conclusions about the relative successes and failures of the AVF will gather at William & Mary to hold a frank conversation about an issue that affects not only our national defense but also the social fabric of our democracy. The symposium, in the wake of recent wars, will reevaluate the AVF.  How well has it worked?  Will it work in the future?

During the symposium, experts will lead discussions about the fairness and efficiency of the AVF, whether it promotes militarism and how well it provides for the national defense.

Captain Alec Fraser, USN (Ret.), author of Damn the Torpedoes, writes: “The relationship between Americans and their armed forces has been one of the foundations of a successful Constitution. That relationship is changing dramatically the more time passes since the implementation of the all-volunteer force … the civil-military divide is widening. I would add, dangerously so.”

Counterarguments range from “conscription is politically infeasible” (the point of view of many politicians) to “an all volunteer military is the only way to go because it’s more professional, more technologically astute, and fields individuals who ‘want to be there,’” such as military and security professionals.

The first symposium, held in spring 2016 on the campus of the University of Kansas, began this crucial debate in earnest. As with almost any such complex situation, that AVF Symposium, under the auspices of the Center for the Study of the US Military at KU, only scratched the surface. So at Kansas it was agreed to continue the process and to deepen and broaden the debate and the audience. For more, visit http://ipsr.ku.edu/military/avf.

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