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Draft Offers US More Strategic Choices: Analyst

An interesting wrinkle on the draft debate: reinstituting mandatory military service might well give the United States a greater range of strategic options because it would allow the country to field a larger force at lower costs than those incurred by the volunteer force.

The volunteer force, in fact, is a "good brake" on what the US can achieve with its military, said Barry Watts, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategy and Budgetary Assessment. Watts led the Pentagon's Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation during the first two years of the current Bush administration.

Part of the reason for the wider range of options would be that the Army, for example, likes to have four or five soldiers in service for every one on the front lines. Simply having more bodies would allow the military to deploy more troops more often, Watts said.

Steve Kosiak, the center's budget analyst, said separately that the Army and Marines would need a larger force in the long run if the US planned to size its force to regularly handle stabilization efforts such as the current effort in Iraq and earlier operations such as Bosnia and Kosovo.

"Stabilization efforts are very labor intensive," he noted during a conference on strategy the think-tank hosted Thursday. Kosiak said that the draft would only be less expensive if the country decides to pay much less than is currently the case. There would be other costs incurred in that case. "It probably has a negative effect on the quality of people" in the military he said. On top of that, Kosiak said, draftees would be unlikely to serve for as long as do volunteers. That would mean higher training costs and a generally less capable labor pool for the military, he added.

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