Draft, no, but Dempsey would support “universal” conscription

Forget a draft. The nation’s top military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, said on Wednesday that he would support universal mandatory military service for all Americans.

“You now -- do I support a draft? I think there’s universal service, there’s selective service, and then there’s the all-volunteer force. If I thought that we could adopt as a nation some form of universal service, I’d sign up for it in a second. Selective service really doesn’t become something that generally produces either the force you want -- because it becomes so restrictive, that the issue of being selective mostly means that there’s plenty of people who opt out, and those that opt out generally speaking then, cause a part of this society to bear a disproportionate share of the responsibility,” Dempsey said.

Dempsey’s remarks during an appearance at the National Press Club came as he was explaining that he was “very content” with the quality and demographic representation in the all-voluntary military of America at large.

In the past, however, Dempsey has spoken of having military service be part of some type of national service for all Americans.

Currently, all U.S. males age 18-25 must register with the Selective Service System. If Congress ever authorized a draft, a lottery would begin picking from 20-year old males first, then likely move up in age as needed. The agency says 18 and 19 year olds probably would not be drafted.  Those with low lottery numbers then get evaluated for eligibility and have time to file for deferments.

In a universal service, all youths, even women in some countries, have to serve some prescribed time in uniform.

Could universal service really work in American, though?

“I’d have to see the mechanism before I agreed to the path, because it’s the mechanism that’ll make all the difference,” he said, skeptically.

U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brendan Mackie