Advantages & disadvantages of a military all-volunteer force

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Lt. Gen. David Barno (USA Ret.) and Nora Bensahel, authors of the Strategic Outpost column for War on the Rocks, discuss the history of the volunteer military and the potential for a draft in the near future.


The United States military hasn’t held a draft since the Vietnam War. For the last 40 years, every warfighter has joined their service willingly. However, War on the Rocks Columnist Lt. Gen. David Barno (USA Ret.) believes that the draft may become necessary in a future conflict.

 

“We’ve been fortunate to have volunteers to meet the numbers we needed to fight these wars, but [we’ve been] in a bit of a historical bubble here for the last 40 years,” said Barno.

“We haven’t had to fight a large, many-year war against a major competitor that can wreak tremendous death and destruction on American forces in combat. We’ve had enemies that have been relatively limited in terms of their capabilities. “If we were ever to fight China, Russia or Eastern Europe or Western Pacific, we would see a skyrocketing number of casualties… and we could very quickly exceed the capabilities of an all‑volunteer force.”

 

“The all‑volunteer force has been a magnificent success and we believe in maintaining it as long as possible. What we talked about in our column though is there may be wars that the United States is required to fight in its future where there simply won’t be enough volunteers to staff the military,” said Nora Bensahel, columnist for War on the Rocks. “We have to think about what it would mean if we need more people to fight our future wars than we have volunteers.”