Not from Provo Daily Herald, Veterans

Military Readiness Reassuring

Click to see original imageBy N. LA VERL CHRISTENSEN
Scripps League Newspapers

A statement by Gen. Edward C. Meyer, Army chief of staff, that all but one of the 10 U.S.-based divisions are now at readiness level is reassuring. Less than a year ago, six of the divisions were reported unfit for combat.

‘The Army’s six overseas divisions have been kept in a high state of readiness. These and their supporting elements account for about 45 percent of the Army’s total strength of about 774,000 men and women.

Whether the present volunteer system can continue to fill the expanding manpower needs without assistance from a military draft is something only time can tell.

Meyer attributed the upgraded readiness largely to a stronger corps of non-commissioned officers, but mentioned also improved quality of recruiting, longer and tougher basic training, and application of greater resources to maintaining weapons and other equipment.

As for quality of soldiers, the chief of staff said the percentage of male Army recruits with high school diplomas has climbed to about 70 percent from below the 40 percent mark in 1980.

Pay increases voted by Congress last year and further boosts in benefits recommended by the Reagan Administration have been credited in part for gains in retaining seasoned noncoms and recruiting new soldiers of higher quality.

What about the future?

The Army has proposed boosting its regular strength by about 80,000 over the next five years to provide two more divisions, and adding 20,000 to 30,000 to the national guard and reserves.

Meyer predicted last February that if the regular Army were to increase beyond 800,000 the country would have to consider a draft.

President Reagan arid Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger have said repeatedly they hope pay raises and other inducements will make it possible to maintain an all-volunteer force, even with expansion.

If volunteer recruiting keeps pace with the growing military strength projected by the Administration, well and good. If its doesn’t, a military draft of the necessary dimension shouldn’t be viewed as any national calamity.

A peacetime draft isn’t new by any means. Circumstances after World War II required that the U.S. maintain a large standing armed force.

For 25 years – from 1948 to 1973 – a draft was in effect. Although enacted in peacetime, it encompassed both the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. Young men were required to register upon reaching 18th birthday. This made them subject to two years of active duty in the military, depending on manpower requirements.

Currently the U.S. has a draft registration in effect but no actual conscription.

All but one of our NATO allies rely on the draft, and even Europe’s neutrals – including Sweden, Austria, Finland and Switzerland – operate national service systems that can quickly call on men until they are 50.

We are not advocating conscription as long as the volunteer system adequately fills the need. But our leaders in Washington should not delay taking necessary steps to institute it if national defense requires.

Meantime, Americans should welcome the news from the Army chief of staff of both improved military posture by our Army divisions and better success in recruiting.