Scrap The Selective Service?

The discussion on women being drafted has shifted to a more general debate on the organization that runs the draft:

Maybe my perspective is skewed because I’m in that tiny cohort of men who never had to register for Selective Service (born between March 29, 1957, and December 31, 1959), but I think your reader is completely wrong. When in the past we’ve faced a large country with “military projection power,” we’ve had no problem creating asimultaneous registration and draft system and mobilizing the population (I’m thinking World Wars I and II) and shutting down the registration system when the war concluded. A permanent registration system started with the advent of the Korean War and escalated during the Vietnam War. In more recent conflicts we’ve used volunteers and contractors (the currently terminology for mercenaries). President Reagan had no problem requiring retroactive registrations when he restarted the system.

We are not a nation where the entire adult civilian population should be constantly on a war footing. I enjoy the privilege of being one of the few adult males not in the Selective Service System’s records and not legally required to be. This privilege should be more widely shared. I don’t argue that the department should be shut down – maintaining the data and the systems is part of being prepared. But unless we have declared war, Selective Service registration should be voluntary.

Another disagrees:

Now you know why cutting the budget is so difficult. We haven’t used the Selective Service System in 40 years. President Carter signed Proclamation
4772 on July 2, 1980, creating the current system, one that has never ever been used. For five years, from 1975 to 1980, we didn’t have registration (which is why I never registered; I was born in 1957 and, thus, turned 18 in 1975). This program isn’t like FEMA, which is used several times each year. It isn’t even like earthquake preparedness material, as earthquakes here in California happen about once every ten years. Nope, this current program has never been used.

Worse, the likelihood that millions of Americans would be needed to fight in any war is effectively nonexistent. The kind of wars that require such manpower are not possible with missiles and nuclear warheads. So we not only have a program that has never, ever been used, it is extremely unlikely it ever can or will be used. Worse, does anyone believe the addresses and information gathered by the system isn’t completely outdated in six months?

Nevertheless, you have people arguing why we should keep it. It doesn’t cost all that much. It might be useful. It can be done easily. All of those reasons ignore the reality the program accomplishes absolutely nothing. I am willing to bet you a good steak dinner the deficit hawks in Congress will be the first people to defend this useless, wasteful program to the bitter end.

Another is on the same page:

In what likely future will America no longer be secure in regards to military safety? Our defense budget is roughly 40% of the entire world’s military spending. For all intents and purposes, we’re an island. So unless you fear Canada or Mexico invading, quickly raising a force to defend the homeland won’t be needed.

Also, the original Selective Service Act was passed in 1940, two whole years before the US entered World War Two. If they were able to organize everything by hand back then, one would think with modern technology, we would get up to speed at least as quickly. Of course, that would depend on public cooperation, but realistically the draft will never be reactivated without broad public support. Otherwise, it’s pretty much political suicide: bye, bye youth vote and soccer moms.

Lastly, what country could realistically start a war that would require the numbers that only a draft could provide? China, perhaps, if they wanted to wreck their entire economy (20% of its exports go to the United States. Another third to the EU and Australia). Russia, with its declining population and its profits from selling gas to the EU? The next five highest spenders are the UK, France, Japan, India, and Saudi Arabia. I guess one could make a case for the last, if radical Islamists took over, but again, only at the cost of wrecking its economy (~40% of exports to the US and allied countries) and therefore it’s capacity to fight.

So why should we be spending $24 million a year on it, again?