National Service: A Third Alternative?
by Morris Janowitz - 1971
This article asks: Is there a possibility of a third alternative between national service and the all-volunteer armed force, which would be a mixed system of voluntary national and community service designed to maximize the number of "true volunteers" for both military and civilian service? For such a system additional and selected monetary incentives would be used for those military categories in immediate deficient supply. A mixed system would maintain the machinery of selective service to deal with strategic deficiencies, should they arise.
Advocates of national service believe that they have firm moral convictions and a strong sense of reality. They think they have concerns which extend beyond the issues of "distributive justice"—that is, distributing tasks and rewards as between one person and another in our society. For them, national service deals directly with questions of "substantive justice"—that is, the basic values on which our society is organized and which are required for consensus and legitimacy of the social order. They believe they are adapting our military institutions to deal with the problems of an advanced industrial society. Of course, opponents of national service hold the same conceptions of themselves.
The difference between the advocates and the opponents rests on the extent to which they are willing to rely on the workings of the "market place" to achieve social justice and institutional change. The sponsors of national service, in one form or another, point to the limitations of the "market place." It is not surprising that both "liberals" and "conservatives" hold similar views from different assumptions. Liberal supporters of national service believe that economic incentives are not sufficient to perform all the public tasks required. They find market mechanisms deficient in fashioning the institutions for youth socialization. Conservatives share a concern with the quality of manpower for public service, especially the military. They emphasize the importance of common experiences which would contribute to a sense of participation and attachment to the larger society.
It is also not surprising that among both "liberals" and "conservatives" opposition to national service can be found. Those liberals who are opposed believe that the state cannot be trusted to conduct—directly or indirectly—programs of national service. For them, the distortion of our political goals by the war in Vietnam has gravely weakened the state's legitimacy. Conservatives opposed to national service believe that entrance into public service, including the military, should operate on the basis of economic competition. National service in addition, they believe, would be a bureaucratic threat and an imposition on personal freedom, the highest value for them in a democratic society. Thus the analysis and debate about national service in its various forms do not conform to the conventional categories of politics.
The United States has passed the point where it is politically feasible for the federal government to implement a comprehensive system of national service. Moreover, in the Congressional debate during the spring of 1971, there was a powerful political movement in support of the all-volunteer armed force concept. In good part this movement rested on the embittered feelings engendered by the war in Indochina and by the rigidities and inflexibilities of the Selective Service System. Efforts to modernize the Selective Service System have come too slowly and have been too limited to make a strong impact. Moreover, dissatisfaction with American foreign policy is so extensive domestically that the sheer reduction in size of the military establishment on any terms is seen as an advantage by many critics. Likewise, ideological notions of freedom of choice play an important consideration, especially among youth groups in their opposition to Selective Service.
As a result, the issues of selective service (or national service) and the all-volunteer armed forces are debated on an either-or basis. Each system is offered as comprehensive in its scope and implications. It must either be accepted or rejected as a whole. The advocates of an all-volunteer armed force point out that their scheme is based on "freedom of choice." One cannot tamper with this principle, they say. Either the system is "free" or it is "coercive." The all-volunteer force must pay the salaries required to produce the necessary number and quality of personnel, and only when it pays the market price will the system work efficiently and effectively. On the other hand, advocates of selective service see the concept of citizen obligation as essential and indivisible. They view the movement, even the gradual movement, toward an all-volunteer armed force as creating an irreversible trend. Critics of the all-volunteer force believe that to solve military manpower problems by monetary considerations, in fact, reduces the real and effective elements of voluntarism. Moreover, in their view, each increase in military pay to create an all-volunteer force will not produce the expected numbers, quality, or diversity of personnel, but will further distort and divert funds from essential civilian priorities to the military establishment.
Public debate in "all or none" terms is hardly productive. In fact, there is an element of "self-fulfilling prophecy" in the debate which may, if not dispelled, produce a disposition to accept an all-volunteer force simply because the trend is defined as "inevitable." This is especially true, since the advocates of the all-volunteer force equate voluntarism with response to monetary incentives, thereby undermining the legitimacy of all other definitions of voluntarism and freedom of choice.
Reformulating the Debate To enrich the debate on youth and national manpower plans for the 1970s, and the debate needs very much to be enriched, two elements are essential. First, it must be recognized that a mixed system is possible; in fact, a large and complex institution such as the military rests on a variety of human motives, needs, and restraints. Second, in developing a mixed system, the advocates of national service must build in a strong element of voluntarism. Voluntarism is not necessarily limited to voluntarism stimulated by monetary incentives.
The starting point for designing and implementing a mixed system—which I shall call a system of voluntary national and community service—can be found in the formulation and estimates of The President's Commission on an All-Volunteer Armed Force (hereafter called the Gates Commission). The staff of this Commission, essentially "hard-headed" economists, seem to assume that in the post-Vietnam period the country will require a 2,500,000 man force. Such a force is described by the Commission as being "slightly smaller than pre-Viet-nam."1 As an aside, I predict that, on a volunteer basis, the post-Vietnam military, that is, the military force of 1974-1975, will be well below two million men and not because that level is deemed to be appropriate for a desirable United States foreign policy. Budgetary limitations, the sheer inability of monetary incentives, the lack of legitimacy of military service, plus the underlying domestic political tension will all be relevant factors.
The economists of the President's Commission estimated that under a conscription system, 440,000 new enlisted men per year would be required to maintain the 2,500,000 force level. They go on to estimate that "not more than 325,000 men" will have to be enlisted annually if the force were fully voluntary, by their monetary definition of voluntary.
The precision and accuracy of this estimate are not crucial for the central issue here at hand. What is central is their interpretation of the role of voluntarism in enlistment in the 1960s. These economists point out that "in recent years" about 500,000 men a year have volunteered for military service. "Although some of these volunteered only because of the threat of the draft, the best estimates are that at least half—250,000 men—are true volunteers."2 The evidence and reasoning for this estimate are indeed thin, and, in fact, there is very little discussion of structure of motives.
But for the purpose of our argument, this estimate can be accepted since evasion of the draft has become progressively easier. The real debate centers on the reasons for such volunteer action by young men. We know that to volunteer is not a simple and direct impulse to engage in combat. The Marines are able to recruit those personalities who are more easily assimilated into combat formations. We know that volunteers into the ground forces, who asked for and pressed for assignment to combat units during the second half of the 1960s, were very, very few. In fact, volunteer personnel in the ground forces had proportionately fewer casualties than draftees. The Army recruits volunteers because they hope to enter technical and administrative services, although many ultimately enter combat units. Many have volunteered from mixed and even unclear motives. All this is to be taken as a point of departure, not as an argument for or against a particular manpower system. The central problem facing political leaders and professional manpower planners in the 1970s is to maintain and strengthen that set of responses which, in the difficult period of the Vietnam war, produced 250,000 men who were described by the President's Commission as "true volunteers." That is, they were not merely responding to monetary incentives or to the threat of the draft. In the Commission's words: "Such men would have volunteered even if there had been no draft, and they did volunteer in spite of an entry pay that is roughly 60 percent of the amount that men of their age, education and training could earn in civilian life."
Therefore, the question needs to be asked: is there a possibility of a third alternative between national service and the all-volunteer armed force, which would be a mixed system of voluntary national and community service designed to maximize the number of "true volunteers" for both military and civilian service? For such a system additional and selected monetary incentives would be used for those military categories in immediate deficient supply. A mixed system would maintain the machinery of selective service to deal with strategic deficiencies, should they arise.
The basic thrust of such an alternative system rests on the notion of (a) broadening and extending the opportunities for volunteer service and (b) making more flexible the time periods spent in volunteer service, both military and civilian. Given the political and social needs of the national and world community, extensive voluntary national and community service by young people is a desirable goal. The experience of national service is a relevant aspect of the educational and personal development of young people of all social strata. This is especially clear since formal education in the classroom cannot suffice as a process of personal development. Moreover, the skills, commitment, and aptitude of young people applied on a short-term basis are a highly valuable resource for performing a wide range of labor intensive tasks in the military, education, welfare, corrections, social services, environment control, and the like. These human resources are often superior for the performance of relatively routine tasks for which highly paid "professionals" are employed.
The act of the "true volunteer" in entering the armed forces as identified by the President's Commission is, as they point out, not an act in response to monetary incentives, but rather one of personal and social definition. Why did 250,000 young men volunteer for the armed forces in "recent years"? For patriotic and national service motives, for personal gratification, and for a variety of values and realities. At another level, some were undoubtedly influenced by the desire to display their manhood, others to avoid danger.
The basic assumption of the present argument is that the national society has hardly tapped the full scope of these voluntaristic motives, especially if national service is extended beyond military service. Gradually, the scope and mechanisms for volunteer action have been extended by the establishment of the Peace Corps, VISTA, and related efforts of private agencies. These steps have been limited and of necessity are piecemeal. Each extension makes the idea of national and community service more legitimate. Despite the "crisis in legitimacy" generated by the war in Vietnam, the concept of national and community service has spread and remains viable, if placed on a voluntary basis. Of course, any system of voluntary action has some essential material and monetary incentives, but a complex of social, personal, and political goals and conditions preclude any simple-minded monetary evaluation. The United States Congress has passed a form of national service for doctors in 1970 by extending the scope of the United States Public Health Service into civilian areas where civilian doctors are unavailable. Despite lower income than in private practice, and especially in a period of acute medical shortages, this program is already a marked success. But more than that, if it comes to be accepted that national and community service is a desirable and moral act, the number and range of volunteers for both the military and civilian services will increase and the legitimacy of their motives will be strengthened.
Volunteer national service makes use of social and moral definitions which will have to be supported energetically by civilian political leadership. Moreover, it assumes that there is a convergence in the legitimacy of volunteering for the military or for the civilian sector. Some advocates of civilian national service for ideological reasons emphasize the superiority of civilian service over military duties. Although one may strongly disagree with United States foreign policy, such a perspective is hardly conducive to the goal of a meaningful national service system.
Nevertheless, there would be some differential benefits and compensation with the advantage in military service. Volunteer national service rejects, however, the notion that rank and file members of the military would receive markedly higher pay, as, for example, the "market rate" recommended by the Gates Commission. In fact, differentials of such magnitude would preclude an effective volunteer service of national scope. Service in both the military and the civil sectors must be based on an admixture of nonmonetary incentives. Therefore, the present trend to steadily increase military pay scales to a presumed "competitive level" can only serve to undermine and block the advent of a broadly based national service system.
Military Requirements The termination of the Vietnam conflict and a clarification of United States foreign policy are essential for a volunteer system of manpower. The results should be a clarification of the role of force in international relations and a change in the actual risks of military service. Manpower is needed not for fighting per se but as part of a strategy of deterrence and a constabulary force.
We are not talking about traditional concepts of war, force levels, or conventional logistics. Nor is the emphasis on a military manpower system for an unspecified time period—a perpetual war machine. The manpower requirements we are discussing are those of the 1970s for a nation which must reconstruct its foreign policy after the tragedies of Vietnam, and which must reconstruct them without adopting neo-isolationism.
The military forces of the United States and their disposition are a representation of the political intentions, responsibilities, and aspirations of American society. The disposition and control of nuclear weapons and the search for nuclear limitations are not the only issues. Ground forces and related naval units remain crucial aspects of political intention and commitment. Again, we are not dealing with either abstract or global notions of overseas bases, but with specific political alliances.
In the past as in the future, the United States will have two foreign policies— European and Far Eastern. The tragedies of Indochina only underline the need for reduction of a ground force presence in Asia because of the failure of American aspirations and resources to articulate with regional realities. By contrast, in Western Europe there remains a central significance for United States ground troops to reassure Europe that it will not be dominated by a revived German militarism and to maintain a stable and flexible defensive posture. The issue is not whether Western Europe can be defended without the use of nuclear arms, but that the presence of United States troops reduces the necessity of confronting that issue and increases the emphasis on new emerging political arrangements which satisfy the political interests of both the West and the East.
The 1970 force level of 340,000 in West Germany is not necessary for the decade of the 1970s. In fact, it is difficult to translate political responsibilities into a force level. It could be that 175,000 to 200,000 troops are required, but on a long-term commitment. This is not a matter of negotiation with the Russians, but rather a unilateral commitment in the first instance. If the European governments believe that slow and gradual erosion is under way, the remaining troops will be unable to serve relevant purposes, whatever their size. Such forces must maintain their internal cohesion and find a basis of residence in Western Europe which is devoid of local friction and intercultural tension. Thus, force level has quality as well as numerical requirements. It cannot be an armed force possessing the ethos reflected in From Here to Eternity; that is, of internal rigidity and excessive discipline. Neither can it be a force which thinks of itself as serving only United States interests, nor can it view itself as a body of hired fighters in the "killing business."
There is every reason to believe that both numerically and qualitatively such a ground force might articulate well with a voluntary national service scheme. Of course, such a force will have at its core a cadre of highly trained technicians and professionals, but essentially it is a labor intensive formation. In fact, its vitality must be based on the commitment of men who feel that their very presence is a worthwhile personal, national, and international commitment. The importance of primary group solidarity in military morale is well known. In addition, in the modern period men must have a fundamental sense of their strategic mission—and the superiority of a mission of deterrence over a combat one. A central issue is to convince the military officer that strategic conceptions of deterrence can become component elements of military morale for rank and file personnel.
Critics of the all-volunteer armed force emphasize the problems of adequate numbers and quality as well as cost. Of course, these issues must be faced, but no scheme can be defended solely on the basis that it costs less or will produce more manpower. Nevertheless, the mixed system of volunteer national service is based on a lower force level than the mid-level projections of the Gates Commission—because it is more realistic and forthright in its expectations. The Gates Commission projected a 2,500,000 force in the post-Vietnam phase; in effect, it will produce no more than 1,750,000 men, and probably less. The mixed volunteer national service idea assumes between 2,000,000 and 2,200,000 as the minimum required manpower level.
Under a military force of 3,500,000 in 1969, the combined ground troops of the Army and the Marines totaled between 1,800,000 and 1,900,000. Future reductions center mainly on the size of the ground troops, since the size of the Air Force and the Navy can be altered only slowly, even if there were important steps forward in nuclear arms control. The central issue rests on the post-Vietnam requirement of 175,000 to 200,000 men for Western Europe, which is a drastic reduction from present levels. One must also add a token force of 30,000 in Korea. The remaining ground troops stationed overseas would be eliminated or severely restricted. Under the Gates Commission's proposals these necessary levels could not be achieved.
By the mid-1970s, it would be satisfactory if the naval establishment had been reduced to 600,000 (from 770,000 in 1969), and the Air Force to 650,000 (from 857,000 in 1969). To meet the above overseas commitments, and to limit the ground contingency force to a vastly reduced Marine Corps and Army, a total figure for the combined Marines and Army of between 750,000 and 850,000 does not appear militaristic and wasteful. This makes a grand total of 2,100,000.
The volunteer national service system would cost less, produce a socially and educationally more representative body of men, and have stronger links with civilian society.
The volunteer national service idea is based on a more realistic system for the reserve component. The Gates Commission merely perpetuates the existing wasteful system, while substantial savings could be made by reducing the size and increasing the effectiveness of the reserve force. Only units which have a much higher level of readiness are worthy of the name "reserves" in the contemporary context. Instead of a military reserve system of 3,500,000, an effective reserve of 1,750,000 would be much less costly and more appropriate for a national posture dedicated to the deterrence strategy and having no territorial and "imperialistic" ambitions. Such a reserve system would be effectively integrated with the active duty forces. Service in the reserves could be divided into periods, one in which personnel were in fully alerted units prepared for deployment on a forty-eight to seventy-two hour basis, while after a period of such reserve duty they would be in more conventional mobilization units. Moreover, individuals could move more readily from active duty units to reserve units and vice versa depending on national and personal needs. The volunteer national service system would also maintain a standby lottery system to meet strategic deficiencies, but such deficiencies need not be anticipated if our foreign policy is reoriented in the direction suggested above.
Military Reforms To make the mixed system of the voluntary national service viable, however, the structure of the military career both for the career professional and for the short-term volunteer must undergo fundamental reconstruction. Clear conceptions of strategic intentions will have to be joined to a rethinking of the form and content of military discipline and military service. Self-criticism in the military engendered by the agonies of Vietnam has already started this process. The conditions of work in the military cannot be expected to duplicate those in civilian life as the Gates Commission erroneously assumes. In such a competition the military would inevitably lag behind. Some of the contemporary efforts to improve material conditions of military life may even prove superficial and irrelevant.
A voluntary armed force should have personnel policies which would closely articulate with national service programs. Such an armed force would have to be truly competitive with alternative options, and would, therefore, require fundamental reforms in personnel policies. One such reform would be a basic alteration in the preference of the military to recruit initial men who are "careerist" in their orientation. Only after completion of the initial term would career recruitment begin. The initial term would be viewed as a probationary period during which both the organization and the recruit would determine their mutual compatibility.
A basic issue is to develop a system of discipline which would enhance the military function and permit the individual a sense of dignity and self-esteem. Without doubt, there has been excessive "mickey mouse" and brutal treatment in some quarters. Tough, realistic training and meaningful tasks with effectively engaged officers are essential. Dissatisfaction with a military career is rooted in underemployment; this is particularly true for junior officers. The mixed system recognizes that men enter the military for many motives: technical training, style of life, mission of the military, and especially, travel abroad.
The volunteer system of national and community service envisages a compensation system designed to assist the person in his transition to civilian life. This has been an operating assumption in the Peace Corps from its very start. The compensation level will be higher in military than civilian service. But a key factor should be the flexibility in the length of term of service, especially in the military.
A significant proportion of the enlisted personnel in the armed forces will receive some technical training and rapidly achieve some higher rank. The length of service of those who enter such programs should be longer than for those men who enter into or are assigned as rank and file members to basic combat units. For the period of the early 1970s, after the termination of hostilities in Indochina, an important feature of the volunteer national service program should be a period of military enlistment less than the traditional two-year period. There is sufficient reason to believe that such an experimental and innovative approach might well be possible in many assignments but not in others. This is particularly the case for a variety of assignments in the ground forces. The military forces of Western Europe make effective use of personnel who serve a shorter period. Only the United States has a two-year period; other NATO nations range from one year to eighteen months.
A shorter period of service would produce a larger number and more varied flow of personnel. A greater emphasis on "on the job training" is clearly a desirable goal and provides a basis for reducing training costs and length of service. The present system of huge, complex, and overcentralized training centers is most questionable. Aspects of basic training can remain centralized, but the bulk of operational training needs to be decentralized. In part, this is required to overcome the impersonality of training and the notion that it is a form of shock treatment. Moreover, by returning aspects of training to operational units, men are more quickly integrated into stable formation. Even more important, deep involvement in training prevents underemployment of career personnel. Air transport also speeds the movement of personnel and thereby makes a shorter military career more plausible. There is good reason to believe that a fifteen-to eighteen-month period would be feasible both from the point of view of the recruit and of the military. Short service personnel could be recruited and assigned to the United States; overseas service would be on a priority basis assigned to men who have made longer commitments.
In the ground forces there is strong objection to reducing military service below two years, but interestingly enough, the military have already adjusted themselves to an important flow of soldiers who serve less than two years. Enlisted personnel who extend their tour of duty in Vietnam are eligible for early release. Likewise, some enlisted personnel who return from Vietnam are released early because given the period spent in training and overseas there is not sufficient time for an additional meaningful assignment.
Likewise, a much more flexible system of duty will be required for officers. Officers should be able to complete five-, ten-, or fifteen-year careers, with the results that there would be a greater supply of personnel and the military would not suffer internal stagnation. In addition, a system of lateral entrance is required both for enlisted personnel and officers who are older and who have essential skills. This already occurs at the officer level (doctors and lawyers) and for some specialists at the enlisted level. The conception needs to be expanded.
The Administrative Dimension A system of volunteer national and community service both for the military and the civilian sector requires an "organizational revolution" in the agencies dealing with youth manpower, counseling training, and placement. Under the current system Selective Service is uncoordinated with the vast army of military recruiters (over 10,000), and, in turn, these agencies do not articulate with the government manpower training and placement services of the Department of Labor and state agencies. Finally, the entire governmental structure is unrelated to and at odds with the realities of a highly decentralized and locally administered system of public education. In the national service plan of Congressman Jonathan B. Bingham (W. 18025), relevant reforms are offered in the proposal to create a new National Service Agency. This agency would be charged with filling the military's manpower requirements and with creating a voluntary civilian service as an alternative to military service.
But the thrust of reform must be even more comprehensive, since the work of such an agency has to articulate with the public educational system and the activities of the Department of Labor and state employment services. The underlying concept is that the National Service Agency must operate as an agent for any given young man, supplying all the information, counseling, and assistance required for him to make the best decision in his own interest and in the national interest. Currently, competing personnel, operating with narrow concerns to fill immediate manpower needs of specific agencies, and failing in this objective, spend the bulk of their time in the referral business—in passing young men from one agency to another. The system is costly, frustrating, and fails because at each point there is a deficit of information and a lack of responsibility on the part of the official.
The national objective should be to place in each high school and in each college a representative of the National Service Agency who would be the agent and spokesman of the young men who are his clients. He would maintain continuous contact with his clients and speak on their behalf. It would be his responsibility to see that they are supplied with full information, and not subjected to suffering from the "referral from one agency to the next" syndrome. The performance of the representative of the National Service Agency would not be judged by any particular service—military or civilian—but by the National Service Agency—that is, he would be able to serve the needs of the national service volunteers. It appears that the National Service Agency should be an independent organization, but the idea that it could be an arm of the Department of Labor or the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare should not be ruled out. The residual and standby function of the Selective Service would, of course, be associated with this agency.
The National Service agent would be responsible to assist not only the young man entering military service, including officer training, but also the individual entering alternative services, such as, the United States Public Health Service, the Coast Guard, and the various local police cadet programs. He would also be involved in recruitment for civilian-sector programs—both public and private, as they have evolved and are proposed in the various pending legislation, for example, the teacher corps, the environmental corps, correction, conservation, welfare, and even narcotics control. A national job corps would be charged with residential programs, urban and outdoors, and with both remedial and instructional goals, using volunteer instructors and teammates. A transitional period of three years would be required to develop these programs. The National Service agent would also be responsible for assisting the young man in returning to higher education and civilian employment. Thus the closest articulation with the facilities of the Department of Labor and state employment services is essential.
It is estimated that between 40 to 60 percent of a given age cohort, or approximately 800,000 to 1,000,000 young men, would take advantage of the benefits and opportunities of national service in any given year. The number entering the civilian sectors would be larger than the military sector because of the available opportunities and interests. The term of duty would vary from nine months to three years, and the total number would not be unmanageable, that is, approximately two million. It may be expected that veterans of national service would not only have some accumulated savings to assist them in transition to regular civilian education and employment, but that civilian institutions would accommodate and, in fact, favor those men who had sought to be involved in national service. Ex-volunteers would have had the benefits of travel and new social experience, and for those bored with the routines of education, an appropriate "break" or interlude. The National Service Agency would be involved in assisting veterans of military and civilian services returning to their communities where such assistance was needed.
National Service and Social Change For the expenditures required to produce an all-voluntary, monetarily-motivated armed force under a system of voluntary national service, military needs could be met while at the same time a portion of the funds used for expansion of civilian-oriented national and community services. But the counterargument to a purely volunteer armed service is not essentially economic; it is political, social, and moral. The essential issue is the relationship between the armed forces and society—the question whether the armed forces will be relatively representative of the larger society or will come to constitute some deviant social body.
In a democratic society, the goal is a high degree of congruence with civilian society and extensive linkages with it. In a communist society, professional standards and political control are maintained by a system of party regulation, secret police, and specialized military formations which police the regular units. The Russian elite has been able to develop such a system and maintain military effectiveness because their society is totalitarian, and the military reflects the control structure of the larger society. By contrast, the armed force of a political democracy cannot be effective or operate under civilian control without a wide variety of social links to civilian society. The central mechanism of civilian control rests in the institutional and administrative arrangements of the President and the Congress. These devices include the annual military budget, Congressional inquiries, judicial review of military justice, and the like. These specific procedures have a mixed record, and in recent years they have been seriously strained. At best, they are insufficient. In fact, civilian control in part rests on the notion that the military are willing to subject themselves to external control because they recognize that they are part of the larger society. They must be aware of the realities and aspirations of the civilian sector. The military must find its place in the larger society; its legitimacy rests on the fact that it does not represent unduly any segment of or political orientation to the larger society. Of course, social research has documented the conservative, regional, and social background tendencies of the military; they are real but they are not profound. These trends cannot be permitted to be enlarged, nor can the notion be permitted to develop that military men are some special group because their motives and their interests are distinct from those of the rest of society.
Thus a system of national service which seeks to maximize and mobilize volunteerism has the following goals: (1) It seeks to produce an armed force which is relatively representative of the larger society or which at least converges with it; (2) It is designed to introduce the widest element of freedom of choice, yet at the same time prevent both the self-conception and the public stereotype of a mercenary armed force; (3) It is an experiment in education, giving young men who have failed in the existing educational system a second chance. It is an experiment in education for all strata, even for the most privileged group who have demonstrated their desire for the experiences of national and community service; (4) Finally, it is an experiment in collective problem-solving, since the existing institutions of society cannot resolve the social and cultural problems to which they are addressed.
The United States has the option of implementing a rigid and mechanical conception of a volunteer military service. Moreover, the all-volunteer armed forces could well be implemented in such a manner as to create profound barriers to the development of any and all forms of civilian national service. In particular, the effort to solve military manpower problems by raising pay schedules would serve only to divert funds from the essential tasks and to weaken volunteerism in both the military and the civilian sector.
The alternative is a step-by-step expansion of the national service concept. The first step is a political settlement of the Vietnam war, which stands as the most profound barrier to an effective foreign policy and threatens to divide the armed forces further from civilian society. It is by no means an accident that the United States Marine Corps, an essentially volunteer service, was the first military force to be redeployed from Vietnam, and this at the insistence of Marine Corps officers. The Marines have emphasized that they must be preserved as an effective fighting and assault force, a task which appears incompatible with their continued involvement in Vietnam. The second step is the development of a public emphasis on the concept that a period of national service is an acceptable and desirable social goal. The energies of the young are indeed powerful. The third is the restructuring of manpower agencies, as set forth above, to end the recruitment battles and produce a system which can inform and communicate with young people. It must be a comprehensive system under which young men can relate themselves to a single individual official and be assured that the official will work in assisting them until their choice has been made. The final step is the recasting of the content of the military experience and the broadening of the civilian national service opportunities so that they emerge as parts of a national whole.
1 The President's Commission on an All-Volunteer Armed Force, February, 1970. Given the obvious strategic intentions of President Nixon in Indochina, the estimate by his Gates Commission that an all-volunteer force could be achieved by July 1, 1971, will be viewed by future historians as the most "irrelevant" advice ever given to a President by a Commission of his own choosing. The estimate that the additional costs for a 2.5 million-man force would be $2.1 billion was already in the short space of one year far short of the mark. The first step recommended in 1971 to improve military pay was approximately $1.5 billion.
2 Ibid., p.6. _