Defense disputes racial imparity
By Bill Gertz
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The Pentagon yesterday disputed assertions by two congressmen who seek a reinstatement of the draft that blacks are assigned to disproportionate numbers of combat positions.
"Blacks tend to be concentrated in administrative and support jobs, not in combat jobs," the Pentagon report says. "This is in sharp contrast to the situation in a draft force."
The 11-page report says blacks make up 21 percent of the enlisted force, but only 15 percent of infantry, armored and artillery units. Blacks are about 12 percent of the overall population.
The report was made public in response to calls last week for reinstituting the draft by lawmakers who claimed that military burdens fell unfairly to minorities and the underprivileged.
In support and administrative jobs, blacks account for 36 percent of all U.S. military personnel, and 27 percent of all medical and dental personnel in the armed forces.
The report was produced by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to highlight the benefits of the all-volunteer force, which proponents said had resulted in the most professional military in American history.
"Contrary to myth, data show that the enlisted force is quite representative of the civilian population," the report said, noting the benefits since the draft ended in 1973.
The report stated that casualties in the 1991 Persian Gulf war were consistent with racial representation in combat and noncombat jobs.
Blacks made up 23 percent of the 550,000 U.S. troops deployed to the Gulf and accounted for 17 percent of the combat and noncombat deaths.
Whites made up 71 percent of U.S. forces during the Gulf war and accounted for 76 percent of the deaths. Hispanics made up 4 percent of the forces and took 4 percent of the deaths in the conflict.
Two black Democrats, Reps. Charles B. Rangel of New York and John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, introduced legislation last week to reinstate the draft, claiming that minorities and poor people were disproportionately represented in the nation's military, while affluent families were underrepresented.
"For those who say the poor fight better, I say give the rich a chance," Mr. Rangel said.
Mr. Rangel opposes the Bush administration's push for a war to disarm Iraq and wants Congress to pass a draft law to create what he regards as a more-representative military force.
The Defense Department report said today's professional military is not manned mostly by poor and uneducated troops.
"Today, black recruits closely parallel their representation among the youth population," the report said. "As with all [volunteer force] recruits, these young men and women are high school graduates with above-average aptitude; they are not the 'poor and uneducated.'"
The report said that 32 percent of recruits come from homes where the father is a high school graduate, compared with 31 percent of the general population in the same age group.
Also, 21 percent of the recruits have fathers who have at least a college education, compared with 30 percent of the general population for the same age group.
The report praised the benefits of an all-volunteer military force over a conscripted force.
"The all-volunteer force has served the nation for more than a quarter-century, providing a military that is experienced, smart, disciplined and representative of America," the report said.
The volunteer force lets the military build more advanced weapons because the service members are smarter and better-trained. Draftees quit the service early, requiring larger numbers and more training.
"With a conscripted force comes higher personnel turnover, which results in substantial costs," the report said. "Shorter enlistment terms, characteristic of a draft, result in high personnel turnover and a degradation in unit stability and performance."
Training costs are higher with a draftee military, thus reducing warfighting preparedness, the report said.
"With a volunteer military comes a more motivated force," the report said. "Data show that people perform better if they are true volunteers than if they are coerced into military service."
Many of today's military leaders are veterans of the Vietnam War and oppose the draft because of problems with draftees during the conflict.
A senior defense official who briefed reporters said the military leadership was "horrified" by congressional proposals to reinstate the draft.
"No one wants to go back to a situation where the people didn't want to serve; in fact, might have been hostile to the purposes to which they were put," the official said.