Statement About Progress Toward Establishment of an All-Volunteer Armed Force
BASED on the report submitted to me this morning by Secretary Laird, and provided the Congress enacts pending legislation I have recommended, we will be able, as planned, to eliminate entirely by July 1973 any need for peacetime conscription into the armed forces.
Four years ago I pledged that if elected I would work toward ending the military draft and establishing in its place an all volunteer armed force--and that during such time, as the need for a draft continued, I would seek to make its working more equitable and less capricious in its effect on the lives of young Americans.
Immediately on taking office, my Administration began its fulfillment of that pledge--and I take deep and special satisfaction in the progress that has been made.
Within 18 months, the old, outmoded draftee selection process, with its inequitable system of deferments, was replaced by an even-handed lottery system based on random selection. The uncertainty created by the draft was further minimized by reducing the period of draft vulnerability from 7 years to one. As a result of these and other reforms, confidence in the fairness of the Selective Service System has been restored.
Meanwhile, we have also been working toward the all-volunteer force.
Secretary Laird today delivered to me an encouraging report detailing the substantial progress we have made in reducing dependence on the draft to meet military manpower needs. The experience of the past 3 years, as indicated in this report, seems to show that sufficient numbers of volunteers can be attracted to the armed forces to meet peacetime manpower needs, and that ending all dependence on the draft will be consistent with maintaining the force level and degree of readiness necessary to meet our vital long-term national security needs.
This remarkable record of progress in reducing our dependence on the draft is a direct result of the strong support given by Secretary Laird, by the Service Secretaries, by the Service Chiefs, and by the entire Defense Department. They can all be justifiably proud of the record:
--Draft calls have been reduced from 299,000 in 1968 to 50, 000 in 1972 one-sixth of the previous level.
--The proportion of enlistees who are "true volunteers"--that is, who enlist out of their own free will and not because of pressure from the draft-has increased from 59 percent to 75 percent in the last year alone.
--The quality of enlistees has remained high, even improving slightly, while the economic and racial profile of the enlistees has not been significantly changed.
--Our military readiness has not suffered.
Some problems, however, remain to be overcome, and doing so will require the full support of the Department of Defense, the Congress, and the public. These problems include:
--Avoiding potential manpower shortages which will occur unless legislation currently pending before the Congress is passed, so as to bolster vigorous Service efforts already underway to improve manpower utilization enlistments and retention;
--Providing sufficient numbers of doctors and other highly trained specialists in critical skills;
--Maintaining Guard and Reserve force manning, which will remain below congressionally mandated strength unless pending legislation is passed.
I am confident that these problems can and will be overcome--assuming prompt action by the Congress on the necessary pending legislation and assuming continued public and Service support. In particular:
--The benefit and worth of a military career must be more effectively communicated to the American people, while all four Services continue to improve their personnel management and manpower utilization procedures. Military careerists deserve the respect and the gratitude of the public they serve.
--The Congress must assist through timely passage of pending legislation-particularly the Uniformed Services Special Pay Act of 1972, which will provide needed bonus authority to help fill projected shortages in critical skills and other possible shortages in the number of enlistees available under a zero draft.
Given this kind of support, we will no longer need conscription to fill manpower requirements after July 1973. This means that it will not be necessary to require from the Congress an extension of induction authority of the Selective Service Act past July of 1973; further authority to conscript thereafter would rest with the Congress.
In reaching this goal, we will finally-28 years after the end of World War II-have done what I said in 1968 that we should do: that we should "show our commitment to freedom by preparing to assure our young people theirs."
Note: The statement was released at San Clemente, Calif.
On the same day, the President met at the Western White House with Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird and members of the Youth Advisory Board of the Selective Service System to discuss Secretary Laird's report on progress being made toward an all-volunteer armed force.
The White House released the transcript of a news briefing by Secretary Laird on the meeting and the report.
Richard Nixon, Statement About Progress Toward Establishment of an All-Volunteer Armed Force Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/254817