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Universal National Service Act of 2004

Location: Washington, DC

UNIVERSAL NATIONAL SERVICE ACT OF 2003 -- (House of Representatives - October 05, 2004)


Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 163. I do not believe that a reinstatement of the draft is necessary or desirable; nor do I believe that there is any support for a draft among my constituents or in the country as a whole.

This Nation has had an all-volunteer military for more than 30 years and the quality of America's service men and women, their dedication, professionalism and commitment has never been greater. Public support for our men and women in uniform is also much higher than it was in the later years of the draft.

Today's soldiers typically stay in the military 2 years longer than their predecessors did in the early 1970s. This reduced turnover has resulted in a more professional force that is able to take full advantage of the high-tech weaponry that is a key component of our military. The volunteer military's lower turnover rate has also led to a reduction in training costs. In 1988, a General Accounting Office study found that the all-volunteer force was cheaper than a conscript force by $2.5 billion per year-more than $4 billion in today's dollars.

Volunteers are more likely to seek promotion, and are likely to be more professionally motivated than draftees. In fact, current retention rates among deployed troops are higher than for forces based in the United States. Because volunteers are paid more and it is costly to train new soldiers, there is a greater incentive to use our troops wisely.

The military has also been successful in its efforts to increase the aptitude of recruits. Today's military is better educated than the general population. While more than 90 percent of military recruits have a high school diploma, only 75 percent of the general population does. Military recruits are also more likely to score high on aptitude tests than their civilian counterparts.

I was, frankly, surprised to see this bill on the suspension calendar for today. Typically, bills are brought up under suspension when they are non-controversial as a two-thirds vote of the House is required for passage. This bill, which enjoys virtually no support in the House, will be resoundingly defeated and I can only surmise that the Majority has only called up this bill in order to vote it down, and in so doing divert attention from the mistakes made by the Administration in overextending our forces.

We do have a military manpower shortage now, but the draft is not the answer. Over the objections of the Administration, the House has authorized the Army and Marine Corps to increase their active-duty end strength by 20,000 and 10,000, respectively. This will help to alleviate some of the strain on both the active and reserve components.

I hope that the Congress will focus attention next year on military manpower issues. We need to reconfigure our military and address the need for personnel who specialize in stability and post-conflict operations. Currently, most of the personnel who are expert in this area are in the Guard and Reserves and there are reports that re-enlistment rates in some units are down as a result of multiple extended deployments overseas.

Throughout my tenure in Congress, I have visited our troops on the front lines as often as possible. I am awed by their courage, their patriotism and their competence. We need to do more to support them and to ensure that they are not overextended, but reinstating the draft is not the answer. Better treatment of those who wear the uniform, and those who once served, is the more constructive solution.

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