Sunday, March 14, 2004

A "special skills" draft?

The draft might be coming back, albeit in limited form:

The government is taking the first steps toward a targeted military draft of Americans with special skills in computers and foreign languages.

The Selective Service System has begun the process of creating the procedures and policies to conduct such a targeted draft in case military officials ask Congress to authorize it and the lawmakers agree to such a request.

Richard Flahavan, a spokesman for the Selective Service System, said planning for a possible draft of linguists and computer experts had begun last fall after Pentagon personnel officials said the military needed more people with skills in those areas.

"Talking to the manpower folks at the Department of Defense and others, what came up was that nobody foresees a need for a large conventional draft such as we had in Vietnam," Flahavan said. "But they thought that if we have any kind of a draft, it will probably be a special skills draft."

...Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said he would not ask Congress to authorize a draft, and officials at the Selective Service System, the independent federal agency that would organize any conscription, stress that the possibility of a so-called "special skills draft" is likely far off.

A targeted registration and draft is "is strictly in the planning stage," said Flahavan, adding that "the whole thing is driven by what appears to be the more pressing and relevant need today" -- the deficit in language and computer experts.
Concerns about overstretch, the appearance of two bills in Congress to reinstate the draft (S. 89 & HR 163), and a host of other curious details have many people worried that forced conscription, of some sorts, is in the cards over the next few years.

This news about a focused, selective draft is couched in cautionary language from the Pentagon and SSS, but it could be just the tip of the iceberg.