Volunteer Army

June 20, 1975

Report Outline
Evaluation After Two Years
Experience with Volunteer Forces
Prospects for the Volunteer Army
Special Focus

Evaluation After Two Years

Recruiting Success and Effect of Unemployment

The president's authority to induct young men into the armed forces expired at midnight on June 30, 1973. In fact, conscription had ended almost six months earlier, as Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird confirmed on Jan. 27 when he announced, “the armed forces henceforth will depend exclusively on volunteer soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. The use of the draft has ended.” One of the most divisive national controversies appeared to end with it. Yet even as anxiety over the draft disappeared, there were doubts about the feasibility—and the desirability—of returning to an all-volunteer force.

Two years later, many of these doubts have been allayed. After a slow beginning in 1973, the armed forces met and even exceeded their enlistment goals for 1974 and the first four months of 1975. The Army, which had been the most reliant on draftees and the focus for fears about the all-volunteer concept, has actually had more recruits than it can use. Even Rep. F.Edward Hébert (D La.), former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who had always insisted that “the only way to get an all-volunteer army is to draft it,” has changed his mind.

But Hébert and others fear that the current recruiting success may be largely attributable to the nation's economic troubles. Young men may be signing up to escape unemployment. A report prepared by the Brookings Institution for the Senate Armed Services Committee in June 1973 noted: “Possibly one of the least certain—and most important—elements affecting the maintenance of a volunteer force is the impact of unemployment on an individual's inclination to volunteer.” The report suggested that the two did not appear to have a strong relation, pointing out that in 1970 those states with high unemployment did not necessarily have a high volunteer rate. Others feel that the correlation between unemployment and enlistment is reasonably well established.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Military Draft
Aug. 19, 2005  Draft Debates
Jan. 11, 1991  Should the U.S. Reinstate the Draft?
Jun. 13, 1980  Draft Registration
Jun. 20, 1975  Volunteer Army
Nov. 17, 1971  Rebuilding the Army
Nov. 18, 1970  Expatriate Americans
Mar. 20, 1968  Resistance to Military Service
Jun. 22, 1966  Draft Law Revision
Jan. 20, 1965  Reserve Forces and the Draft
Feb. 14, 1962  Military Manpower Policies
Jun. 03, 1954  Military Manpower
Sep. 24, 1952  National Health and Manpower Resources
Oct. 24, 1950  Training for War Service
Aug. 21, 1950  Manpower Controls
Aug. 13, 1945  Peacetime Conscription
Sep. 09, 1944  The Voting Age
Apr. 15, 1944  Universal Military Service
Feb. 17, 1942  Compulsory Labor Service
Jun. 11, 1941  Revision of the Draft System
Aug. 14, 1940  Conscription in the United States
Apr. 24, 1939  Conscription for Military Service
General Defense and National Security
Military Draft