Published May 1973 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Our All-Volunteer Armed Forces For the first time since shortly after World War TI, our country is now dependent upon volunteers to maintain its armed forces. No more draftees will be called before the Selective Service induction authority expires June 30. The Selective Service Act, however, will remain in force. Young men reaching 18 still must register and receive lottery numbers inasmuch as the draft's framework will be continued for reasons of national security. The question of most concern is: Will there be a sufficient number of qualified volunteers? Thus far, it appears that enough men will enlist, but only time will tell about the quality of those who volunteer. Selective Service experience has shown that draftees, on the whole, have been the best que1lified men the armed forces have obtained. Fears have been expressed that all-volunteer armed services may result in a dilution of their overall quality. Some people express concern that only the lower strata of our society will volunteer. Others contend that professional, career-type forces pose a threat to democratic institutions, in which civilian authority must be dominant. Hopefully, none of these unwanted results will occur. Initial reports indicate that the volunteer concept may have an even chance to succeed. The volunteers coming in thus far arc reported to be in about the same proportion to the racial, economic, and educational mix of the population as they were previously. Several other factors enhance the all-volunteer concept. For example, the overall size of our armed forces is being cut by more than 100,000, reducing the need for recruits; service pay has been substantially increased; and careers in the armed forces and the benefits they offer have been much improved. The most hopeful development is that the Army, which has been the most dependent on the draft, is having better success than had been anticipated in attracting volunteers. The Navy and Marines, which have had to draft only occasionally, are reported doing about as well. And the Air Force, which has never had to draft, should have no trouble. Getting enough volunteers for U.S. Reserve forces, however- many of whose recruits were draft-motivated-and attracting enough doctors, in view of the scarcity of physicians in civilian life, remain two big problems as the all-volunteer experiment begins.