133. Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Staff1



We face the problem of how best to meet our future military manpower needs. There are two principal issues:

  • —The timing of steps toward reducing draft calls and achieving an all-volunteer armed force. The Gates Commission has unanimously recommended the establishment of an all-volunteer army supported by an effective standby draft and four alternative plans for achieving that goal have been developed by an interagency working group.
  • —The reforms needed in our present draft system and the nature of standby draft mechanism to be maintained whenever draft calls are [Page 480] ended. A NSC review has recommended interim draft reforms phasing out certain types of deferments and changing the method of allocating the monthly draft call.

On these issues, Secretary Laird has stated that the Department of Defense favors an All-Volunteer Armed Force and endorses the basic conclusion of the Commission that the draft should be phased out. He recommends that, “this should occur when assured of the capability to attract and retain an Armed Force of the required size and quality through voluntary means.”

Secretary Laird further recommends that … “as we proceed toward this goal, the main emphasis should be on reducing draft calls to zero rather than achieving the All-Volunteer Force, even though the objective of each is identical. There are many Americans, including some in Congress, who reject the idea of an All-Volunteer Armed Force but support reduced reliance on the draft. It will be easier to reach the objective by focusing public attention on eliminating the draft rather than stirring those who object to the concept of an All-Volunteer Force.”

A considerable sentiment is building in the country against the draft and it may even be difficult to get an extension of induction authority when it expires on July 1, 1971. An alarmingly high number of young men are simply not reporting for their physical examination or for induction.

Moreover, if the Vietnam situation winds down, the pressures for draft abolition will likely increase, thus making it very difficult to maintain an armed force large enough to sustain our world-wide commitments. On the other hand, there are still forces, particularly among veteran’s organizations, that support retention of the draft.

There are numerous strategies and options available. The options as to amount and timing of military pay increases can be simply stated: the earlier and bigger the increase, the better the chance of achieving an All-Volunteer Force at an early date and the greater the difficulty of absorbing it in the budget.

The budgetary situation is very tight. Any substantial amount of new spending in fiscal year 1971 would cause an inflationary deficit, deep cuts in existing programs, increased taxes or some combination of these. The current budget estimates for 1972, while admittedly uncertain, show very little, if any, room for new initiatives.

Because of a number of uncertainties in the picture, however, none of the options can guarantee the delivery of an All-Volunteer Force of the required quantity and quality on a specific date. Among the uncertainties are:

  • The effect on volunteerism of the changing attitude of young people toward military service. It is not known how youngsters of high school age have been affected by widespread anti-war propaganda, nor is it [Page 481] known how those already engaged in ground combat in Vietnam will respond to reenlistment.
  • The uncertainty of the effect of increased pay on enlistment and reenlistment in both active and reserve forces. It is assumed more pay will help, but there is no way to know at this time what its drawing power will be.
  • The availability of jobs in the civilian labor market. Our ability to attract young men to the Armed Forces as volunteers will depend in part on the job options they have outside the military.
  • Active Force requirements and Vietnamization. The U.S. presently plans major reductions in its active force with overall strength to decline from its present level of 3.1 million men to 2.25 million men. With this planned force reduction, draft calls could decline, even without any special action or pay, to the low level of about 60,000 inductions per year. However, our manpower requirements and the timing of our force reductions will depend largely upon the progress made in Vietnamization. It is possible that both our active force and budgetary requirements could be considerably higher than now anticipated.
  • The level of Reserve enlistments after draft calls for active forces fall to zero. Assuming that we reach zero draft calls for active forces, there still remains the problem of manning Reserve units. Under the new military strategy and fiscal limits, the Army will place greater reliance than ever before on Reserves, so a shortfall there could be as critical as a shortfall in the active forces. The level of Reserve readiness required will involve more extensive training and it is difficult to estimate the effect of these training time commitments on current paid Reservists, more than 75% of whom are draft-motivated.

If all the uncertainties break in favor of increasing volunteerism, it would be possible to achieve an All-Volunteer Force for active forces other than doctors by the end of FY 1972 under the lowest cost of the options outlined. If the uncertainties break the other way, even the most expensive option would not bring us to that point by that date.

In this connection it should be noted that the Department of Defense has stressed its inability to absorb additional costs associated with accelerating the elimination of the draft by taking cuts elsewhere in its budget or by reducing forces below recommended levels.

The Working Group has identified four optional courses of action, each with a different budgetary impact.

Optional Strategies

The first option—the recommendation of the Gates Commission—aims toward eliminating the draft by July 1, 1971. It is the highest cost option, requiring $3.4 billion more in the FY 1971 budget (the net cost to the Federal government after taxes would be $2.7 billion). The [Page 482] remaining options differ primarily in the timing and composition of the proposed pay increase, and in the distribution of money between pay and non-pay incentives. In each case, the bulk of any new spending is shifted into fiscal years 1972 and 1973.

All options also include the implementation of comprehensive improvements in the conditions of military service and personnel recruiting, many of which are recommended by the Gates Commission. These would include broadening the use of skill differential pay, increased hostile fire pay, retirement vesting, putting terms of enlisted men on the same basis as officers, expanding choice of military occupation, more lateral hiring, reimbursement of family travel expenses for enlisted men, and an expanded recruitment effort.

Option One

Goal: Elimination of all draft calls by July 1, 1971.

Cost: Starting July 1, 1970, the pay scale recommended by the Gates Commission would go into effect. This would increase the average pay of first-term enlisted men by 75% and officers by about 55%.

FY 71 FY 72 FY 73
Budget Cost* $3.4 $3.1 $2.8
Net Federal Cost (after taxes) 2.7 2.5 2.2

Arguments in Favor:

—Would be recognized as a clear and uncompromising commitment to move towards an all-volunteer force while draft calls are at fairly high levels (160,000 men per year).

Arguments Against:

  • —Would itself create very severe budgetary problems for FY 1971—problems that could be aggravated by pressures for moving up the general pay increase 6 months from January 1971 at an additional cost of $1.2 billion.
  • —Would make it difficult to get Congress to extend induction authority beyond July 1, 1971. If this happened there is considerable risk that not enough volunteers would be attracted to support our planned force structure before induction authority expired.

Option Two

Goal: Elimination of all draft calls by July 1, 1972.

Cost: This option would increase pay levels in two steps: (1) a 20% increase in pay for first-term enlisted men on January 1, 1971, (2) the [Page 483] full Gates Commission pay increase for first term personnel on July 3, 1971. The cost (in billions) is expected to be:

FY 71 FY 72 FY 73
Budget Cost $0.3 $3.1 $2.8
Net Federal Cost (after taxes) 0.2 2.5 2.2

Arguments For:

  • —Would provide an excellent chance of achieving an all-volunteer force by mid-1972, perhaps earlier.
  • —Reduces budget strain in FY 1971. The FY 1971 budget cost has already been budgeted and delaying the initial pay increase to January, 1971 would reduce pressure for a general pay increase on July 1, 1970.
  • —Would require a smaller increase in enlistments than Option 1. This reduces the risk of not getting enough volunteers to maintain planned force levels and thereby being forced to continue conscription beyond the target date.

Arguments Against:

  • —Still has a substantial cost, and would consume a significant part of budget flexibility for FY 1972.
  • —Would give appearance of weaker commitment to ending the draft than Option 1.

Option Three

Goal: Elimination of draft calls as early as possible, hopefully between mid-1972 and 1973.

Cost: This option is recommended by DOD and would increase pay in two steps: (1) a 20% pay increase on January 1, 1971, for enlisted personnel in the first two years of service (same as options 2 and 4) (2) a second pay increase, probably on January 1, 1972, for both short and long service personnel. In addition to increasing service pay, this option would increase expenditures for an expanded recruiting effort by each of the services, improved military housing, in-service educational opportunities and other conditions of service. The cost (in billions) [of] the pay and other expenditures is estimated to be:

FY 71 FY 72 FY 73
Budget Cost $0.3 $2.0 $3.5
Net Federal Cost 0.2 1.7 3.0

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Arguments For:

  • —Reduces budget strain in FY 71. The FY 71 budget cost has already been budgeted and delaying the initial pay increase to January 1, 1971, would reduce pressure for a general pay increase on July 1, 1970.
  • —Keeps options open and retains budget flexibility for FY 72 and beyond; thus avoiding an early commitment to spend more money than needed to reach our goal or spending it in the wrong way.
  • —Avoids any significant risk of not obtaining sufficient volunteers to maintain our planned force levels, because of acting too soon in taking irreversible steps to eliminate the draft.

Arguments Against:

  • —Would strain the FY 72 budget and absorb a major portion of the funds available for new initiatives then.
  • —Would give appearance of a weaker commitment to ending inductions than Options 1 or 2. The greatest steps toward an all-volunteer force would be taken after draft calls had fallen to low levels (60,000 men per year).

Option Four

Goal: Elimination of all draft calls by July 1, 1973.

Cost: This option would increase pay levels in three steps: (1) a 20% pay increase on January 1, 1971 for military personnel with less than two years of service, (2) a second 20% increase on July 1, 1971, and (3) a substantial further increase on July 1, 1972. The cost (in billions) is expected to be:

FY 71 FY 72 FY 73
Budget Cost $0.3 $1.3 $2.8
Net Federal Cost (after taxes) 0.2 1.0 2.2

Arguments For:

  • —Postpones full budget burden until FY 73. Some picked up in FY 71, with a major portion delayed until FY 72.
  • —Keeps options open and retains budget flexibility for FY 72 and beyond. Gives one year of experience with effect of pay increases before deciding on amount of FY 73 increase.
  • —Avoids any risk of not obtaining sufficient volunteers to maintain our planned force levels.

Arguments Against:

  • —Would strain the FY 72 budget without achieving an all-volunteer force.
  • —Gives appearance of a weaker commitment to reducing inductions than the other options.
  • —Would not achieve an all-volunteer force until mid-1973 when draft inductions would be at a very low level.

Stand-By Draft

Under any of the proposals to achieve an all-volunteer armed force, there is provision for an effective stand-by draft mechanism. While the precise details of such machinery need not be determined now, there is one major issue which may have to be confronted in the current draft hearing. This issue is whether the Congress or the President would have the power to activate the stand-by draft once an all-volunteer force is achieved. There are three options with respect to this question:

  • —Delay a decision until an interagency group develops entire program for a stand-by draft;
  • —Decide now that Congress shall have the authority to activate the stand-by draft (Gates Commission recommendation)—

Comment: This alternative would be the most acceptable to the Congress and the least controversial. Furthermore, Congress has never given the President induction authority for an indefinite term of years.

—Decide now that the President shall have the authority to activate the stand-by draft.

Comment: This option would give the President maximum flexibility to meet a national emergency, but would probably be unacceptable to the Congress.

Draft Extension

Induction authority under the current draft law2 expires on July 1, 1971. New induction authority for the period of its duration serves as an insurance policy against a possible failure to achieve the goal of all-volunteer armed force. However, the greater the extension of induction authority requested, the weaker appears the administration’s commitment to an all-volunteer force.

If the Gates Commission recommendations were fully implemented beginning in FY 71, conceivably no draft extension would need to be requested because an all-volunteer force might be achieved by mid-1971. However, if such a course were adopted, there would be no margin for error in achieving the all-volunteer force by mid-1971.

[Page 486]

Three possible options regarding draft extension are set out below:

1. Two year extension of draft.

—A two-year extension of the draft beyond July 1, 1971, could be requested. Included in the request for extension would be a proviso that the President could, by Proclamation, end the draft at any time during this two-year period.

Argument for:

  • —Provides reasonable insurance for transition to all-volunteer armed force.
  • —Appears consistent with goal of achieving all-volunteer force.

Argument against:

—Appears to be a weaker commitment to an all-volunteer force than limiting the number of people to be inducted, as in option 3 below.

2. Three-year extension of draft.

Argument for:

—Greater manpower supply flexibility.

Argument against:

—Appears to be weak commitment to all-volunteer force.

3. Two or Three-year Extension (Limited Number of Inductees)

A possible fall-back option would be either a two or three year extension with a numerical limit on the number of men to be inducted. For example, under a two-year extension the administration could request limited authority to draft up to 125,000 men in FY 72 and 75,000 men in FY 73. Included would be a proviso that the draft could be ended by Proclamation at any time during this two-year period.

Argument for:

—Presents to the public a clear timetable for phasing out the draft, even while asking for an extension.

Argument against:

—Limits flexibility of manpower supply during next two years even though current DoD projected draft calls are lower than the limits set.

Interim Draft Reform

As compulsory inductions will continue for at least 15 months, and probably for several years, it seems worthwhile to consider interim draft reform.

[Page 487]

The draft reform recommendations of the NSC study include changes that could be made by Executive Order in early April. Others require legislation, hopefully in 1970.

Proposal One: Defer No Undergraduates in Future Not Already Holding II–S Deferments


Ask Congress to amend the Military Selective Service Act to provide that undergraduate college students who do not hold II–S deferments as of some effective date (e.g., 6 April 1970) shall in future not be granted such deferments. If selected for induction they would receive an automatic postponement to the end of their current academic term. (Analogous changes would have to be made in Class II–A for apprentices and students not seeking baccalaureate degrees.)

The proposed change would result in about 50,000 students having their undergraduate education subject to interruption by the draft in 1971. For about half of these, the interruption would come at the end of the sophomore year. The impact on colleges would be approximately a 6% subtraction for two years in sophomore and junior enrollments below increases now expected.

Arguments for Phasing Out Student Deferments.

Undergraduate deferments are inequitable as they often enable individuals with more intelligence and/or money to avoid the draft completely or at least to choose a low-risk year in which they expose themselves to it.
Abolishing such deferments would probably not alter the number of baccalaureate degrees granted over the next 5 years. Drafted students will have GI benefits and be better able to finance completion of their studies.
Some students are now prolonging their college education by “changing majors” and by taking courses not required by their academic departments.
The American Council on Education has recommended an end to all future undergraduate deferments.

Argument Against:

In a message to Congress on May 13, 1969, the President expressed support of undergraduate deferments because they allow the student to complete his college education without interruption by the draft, and are “a wise national investment.”3

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Issue: Postponement for Current Academic Year or Term?

The NSC study recommends postponement to the end of the current term for those selected for induction because:

Undergraduate students pay fees and receive credits by the term and not the year. Today, for many particular students, it would be hard to define their current academic year.
A student selected in the fall quarter may be a poor student in subsequent quarters if deferred to June.
Most of the 30% of all inductees who will be ex-undergraduates would become available the same month of the year if postponement was to the end of the academic year. This will cause an uneven flow of manpower into the services.

The principal argument in favor of a postponement until the end of an academic year is that many students make their living and other personal arrangements on an academic year basis. To grant only a term postponement might impose a major hardship on such students.

Proposal Two: Occupational/Agricultural/Paternity Deferments


That the President should issue an Executive Order non-retroactively ending occupational, agricultural, and paternity deferments. A man not holding one of such deferments as of some date (e.g., 1 April 1970) would not in future be granted that deferment. However, until age 26, a man with an occupational deferment as of the date of the order would have it renewed each year if he stayed with the same employer and job.

Arguments For:

After 1970 the draft pool will consist of 19–20 year olds and hardly any of those will enter essential jobs in which they are irreplaceable.
There is no shortage of labor in industry or agriculture.
Determining what occupations and individuals are essential to community need produces inconsistencies that are a cause of public dissatisfaction with Selective Service.
Deferment in cases of proven financial hardship because of dependent children—about 10% of Class III–A deferments now—would still be granted.
Men who have had II–S deferments are not now allowed by law subsequently to receive III–A paternity deferments.
A rough estimate of the number of men who might be drafted in 1971 because of phasing out all three deferments is 10,000.

Arguments Against:

Occupational deferments now enable local government units, such as school boards and police departments to hire young men under age 26 for jobs they might not otherwise accept.
Certain employers will be inconvenienced by having to find other men or women to replace drafted men hired after April 1970.

Issue: Options on Timing.

Phase out occupational, agricultural, and paternity deferments by Executive Order soon (e.g., 1 April 1970) and request the Congress to require or permit undergraduate student deferments to be phased out on the same date, or at some date in the future.
Request the Congress to phase out undergraduate deferments as of some date, while undertaking to phase out the other deferments discussed above by Executive Order effective on the same date.
Request the Congress to phase out undergraduate deferments and undertake to phase out the other deferments when the Congress has acted on the undergraduate deferments. An assumption of all three options is that all student deferments (both II–S and II–A—i.e. undergraduate, junior college, and apprentice) would be treated alike and phased out after passage of legislation.

Option 1 represents strong Presidential leadership in that he acts immediately to do everything he can to create equity in the draft. It also places strong pressure on the Congress to act on the undergraduate student deferments.

Option 2 accomplishes almost the same result, but permits Congress to share some of the responsibility. Option 2 has the disadvantage of being likely to create a national gold rush to seek the soon-to-be phased out deferments.

Option 3 is not one of strong leadership, but requires Congress to share responsibility for ending the various types of deferments.

Issue: Phasing Out or Termination of Deferments.

The NSC study recommended phasing out the deferments discussed above by not granting any new ones after a given date. This recommendation was based on a desire to provide a gradual transition to an equitable draft without upsetting the reliance placed by individuals on a prior set of regulations. However, in the name of equity it could be argued that if undergraduate, paternity and occupational deferments are inequitable, they should all be terminated at once including existing ones, rather than phased out gradually.

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Proposal Three: Direct National Call


Request Congress to amend the Military Selective Service Act so as to permit Selective Service to “call” men for induction if I–A and qualified according to their random sequence number. This would replace the present system of assigning numerical quotas for states, and then in turn for local boards, with resultant board quotas being filled with men sometimes having widely differing random sequence numbers. In effect there would be a single national pool of I–A qualified men instead of over 4,000 local board pools.

Argument For:

The Direct National Call would provide what the public seems to have expected from the draft lottery system—namely, a system in which registrants with number one will be inducted ahead of registrants with number two, etc.
The present system of “spreading the call” is inequitable (e.g., law abiding registrants in states with high delinquency rates are more likely to be inducted), provides bad incentives (e.g., boards that qualify few of their I–A registrants attract a smaller quota from State Headquarters), and may be illegal (e.g., “credits” for local men already serving are not evidently granted as legally required).
A direct national call by comparison is simple in concept and operation, and as it would apply uniformly across the nation, the monthly call would be publicized at once by all media, thereby giving more advance notice to affected registrants.

Argument Against:

The discretion of State Directors in spreading the call among their boards is ended.
State Directors may appear to have less incentive to fill the monthly call for their state.
A number of Congressmen and current Selective Service personnel can be expected to oppose the direct national call on the ground that it is a first step toward greater centralization and national control of the traditionally autonomous and decentralized Selective Service state headquarters and local boards.
The direct national call conflicts with the traditional selective service concept of each state furnishing its numerically-determined proportional share of men for the nation’s armed forces.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–27, NSC Meeting, March 24, 1970. Secret. Under March 23 covering memoranda, the NSC Secretariat sent the paper, which served as the basis for discussion at the next day’s NSC meeting, to Agnew, Rogers, Laird, Shultz, Lincoln, Helms, Mayo, Hershey, and Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Robert H. Finch. Copies were also sent to Mitchell, Wheeler, Richardson, Ehrlichman, Flanigan, and Special Assistant to the President Martin Anderson. This paper revised and summarized a 114-page report prepared in response to NSSM 78 (Document 54) and submitted on January 16 by the interagency Working Group, which included members drawn from the NSC, BOB, OEP, the Selective Service System, the President’s Commission on an All-Volunteer Force, and the Departments of Defense, Labor, Commerce, and Health, Education and Welfare. The Working Group’s report included the following sections: Selective Service and National Needs, Fundamental Equity Questions, Methods of Selection and Deferment, Occupational Deferments, Student Deferments, “Spreading the Call,” Improvements in Procedures, Fairness to Registrants, Proposed Selective Service Data Systems, and the Recommended System. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–163, NSSM 78; and Box H–215, NSDM 53)
  2. The cost is expected to decline because of the planned reductions in the level of the armed forces.
  3. The Military Selective Service Act of 1967.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 53.