Additionally, anecdotal evidence suggests that re-enlistment rates may be down as well, which will further limit the President's apparent aspirations.
Conscription, of course, could alter this equation -- though it would take awhile to draft and then train new (likely much less motivated) soldiers.
In any event, I recently read an interesting piece on AlterNet by Conner Freff Cochran suggesting that a draft is coming. Don't expect to hear the Republicans talking about this before the election.
Cochran discusses some behind-the-scenes moves taken by the Selective Service System that could both hasten a draft and make it more effective:
Despite statements to the contrary, quiet preparations for the return of the draft have been under way for some time. The Selective Service System's Annual Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2004 -- despite a ton of obfuscatory jargon, acronyms, and bureaucrat-speak -- can't quite manage to bury all of its bombshells.According to Cochran, the SSS 2004 plan commits them to report to the President by March 31, 2005 that a draft could be ready for activation in 75 days.
Strategic Objective 1.2 of the 2004 plan commits the Selective Service System to being fully operational within 75 days of "an authorized return to conscription." Strategic Objective 1.3 then commits them to "be operationally ready to furnish untrained manpower within DOD timelines." By next year the government intends to turn the ignition key on a mobilization infrastructure of 56 State Headquarters, 442 Area Offices, and 1,980 Local Boards. There's even a big chunk of funding this year to run what's called an "Area Office Prototype Exercise" which will "test the activation process from SSS Lottery input to the issuance of First Armed Forces Examination Orders."
Strategic Objective 2.2 is all about bumping up the Selective Service System's High School Registrar Program. What's that? It's a plan to put volunteer Registrars in at least 85% of the nation's high schools, up from 65% in 1998. Consider these the SSS's "troops on the ground," making sure that the smallest possible number of eligible draftees manages to slip through the net.
By this math, the US could hold its first draft lottery since Vietnam on June 15, 2005. Congressional action would be required, but even NY Democrats Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rep. Charlie Rangel have publicly supported a draft -- so this is certainly within the realm of the possible.