138. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) and the President’s Assistant for Domestic Affairs (Ehrlichman) to President Nixon1

    • Draft Reform and All-Volunteer Army Decision

At the March 24 NSC meeting,2 you indicated that the Administration should move toward reducing draft calls and achieving an all-volunteer force with the following provisos:

We cannot spend the additional $3.4 billion in FY 1971 recommended by the Gates Commission.
We should emphasize to Congress and the public that our goal is to reduce draft calls to zero.
We must not commit ourselves to a timetable for ending the draft that we cannot achieve.
We must get the draft renewed on July 1, 1971, if we expect our foreign policy to be credible.

Within this framework, we agree with Secretary Laird’s recommendation that the following steps should be taken to reduce draft calls over the next few years:

  • —During FY 1971, a $300 million (20 percent) increase in first term military pay should be made to demonstrate your tangible commitment to the all-volunteer concept.
  • —During FY 1972, a large commitment of funds ($2 billion) should be made toward substantially reducing draft calls.
  • —During FY 1973, a larger expenditure ($3.5 billion) should be made in the expectation that draft calls could be ended between July 1972 and July 1973.

This incremental approach will probably obtain sufficient volunteers to maintain our planned force levels, although there are a number of uncertainties in the picture, namely:

  • —Active force requirements and the progress of Vietnamization.
  • —The effects on volunteerism of the changing attitude of young people toward military service.
  • —Enlistments in the active and reserve forces after draft calls fall to zero.

—The feasibility of further increasing military pay in light of the general pay increase already negotiated, and the strain expected on the FY 1972 and FY 1973 budgets. If all these uncertainties break in favor of increasing volunteerism, it will be possible to eliminate the draft by July 1972. If the uncertainties break the other way, it will take considerably longer. Even so, we can probably plan on ending the draft by July 1973.

Because of these uncertainties, however, the extension of induction authority and the establishment of an effective standby draft are necessary components of this approach to obtaining an all-volunteer army.

(1) Draft Extension in 1971. Current induction authority expires on July 1, 1971. To maintain our armed forces, it will be necessary to extend the draft by two or three years beyond the date. While the Congress may be unwilling to grant a three-year extension now, such an extension would be desirable in light of the uncertainty regarding our Vietnam force levels and the practical difficulties of ending conscription. Furthermore, if it appears that we are running into problems getting [Page 503] needed support for the three-year extension, we would then have the option of compromising for a two-year extension and still meet our needs. Therefore, we recommend that you initially seek a three-year extension of induction authority to July 1, 1974.3

Seek 3 Year Extension

(Recommended by Harlow, Kissinger and DOD)

Seek 2 Year Extension

(2) Standby Draft. We believe that the establishment of an effective standby draft will be necessary at whatever time the draft ends. This should make it possible to reactivate the draft without delay in an emergency. A related issue is the question of who should have the authority—you or the Congress—to reactivate the draft if you place it on standby. We recommend that you seek the authority to reactivate the draft during the balance of your induction authority.4

Presidential Authority

(Recommended by DOD)

Congressional Authority

(Recommended by Harlow)

(3) Draft Reform. The major reforms possible in the draft were discussed at the March 24 NSC meeting. Your tentative decisions are outlined below:

  • —Request Congress to amend the law to permit Selective Service to induct men according to their random sequence number. In effect this would provide what the public has expected from the draft lottery system—that those with lottery number one will be drafted before those with lottery number two, etc.
  • —Request Congress to amend the Military Service Act to restore discretionary authority over undergraduate student deferments to you. You could then issue an Executive Order providing that those college students, who do not now hold II–S deferments, would not be granted such deferments in the future.
  • —Continue to bar graduate student deferments except for students in medical and allied fields, for which DOD foresees a special draft call.
  • —Issue an Executive Order phasing out occupational, agricultural, and paternity deferments—except in case of “hardship.” A man not now holding one of these deferments would not be granted that deferment in the future. [The Secretary of State recommends that an exception to this policy be made for Peace Corps volunteers; his views will be forwarded shortly for your consideration.]

Approve Draft Reform5

Dispprove Draft Reform

(4) Timing of Executive Order Phasing Out Occupational, Agricultural and Paternity Deferments. In phasing out existing deferments, you should decide whether to:

  • Take Independent Action. You could phase out the above deferments by Executive Order, requesting Congress to require or permit undergraduate student deferments to be phased out on the same date. This would put pressure on Congress to act on the question of undergraduate student deferments but, if Congress did not act, it might look as if the students were being favored at the expense of other groups. Recommended by DOD, Kissinger and the Selective Service.
  • Require Congress to Act First. You could request Congress to phase out undergraduate deferments with the understanding that when they acted, you would act to eliminate the other deferments by Executive Order. This could be interpreted as a weak commitment to ending inequities in the draft as fast as possible, however, it would require Congress to share the responsibility for ending deferments. Recommended by the Klein6 media group and Harlow.

Take Independent Action7

Require Congress to Act First

(5) Doctor’s Draft. All interested parties agree that the doctor’s draft should be extended concurrently with the general induction authority. (There is some disagreement on the extension of draft liability for doctors which will be forwarded to you for decision in a separate memorandum).

[Page 505]

Recommendation: That you approve an extension of the doctor’s draft concurrently with the extension of the general induction authority.8



  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 407, Subject Files, Volunteer Army. Secret. Sent for action. A handwritten note at the bottom of the first page reads, “Presidential Action Indicated”
  2. See Document 135.
  3. Nixon approved neither of these two options. He instead wrote, “Hold til next year” in the margin.
  4. Nixon approved neither of these two options. He instead wrote, “Hold til next year” in the margin.
  5. Nixon checked this option. Brackets are in the original.
  6. Herbert G. Klein, White House Director of Communications.
  7. Nixon checked this option.
  8. Nixon, rather than approving or disapproving this recommendation, wrote “Hold.” A stamped note next to Nixon’s instruction reads: “Apr 9, 1970.”