I Want You! The Evolution of the All-Volunteer Army
The President’s Commission on an All-Volunteer Armed Force – the Gates Commission – and Selective Service Reform (1969-1970)
Selective Service Reform
The second subject Nixon raised at the National Security Council meeting of January 25, 1969, was reform of Selective Service. The new administration faced two issues: what reforms to initiate, given the long history of past commissions and failed efforts, and what to do about the controversial, 75-year-old, Director of Selective Service, Lieutenant General Lewis B. Hershey.
Laird Favors a Lottery
On February 3, 1969, as requested by the President, Laird laid out his views on reforming the draft. He saw the long-range answer to the problem as being the all-volunteer force. Since he had submitted his memorandum to the President concerning the best path to follow to get to at all-volunteer force and had not yet received Nixon’s response, he reiterated that his study program constituted “an effective approach to the longer- term issues. In the meantime,” he acknowledged that “we do have the short-term problem of resolving draft inequities and improving draft procedures” (Laird, 1969b0.2 MB).
Reflecting Fitt’s assessment, Laird told Nixon that the basic problem was “we need to draft only about a quarter of the . . . fully qualified men in the draft-liable manpower pool — and the figure will become only one in seven if and when we revert to pre-Vietnam strengths” (Laird, 1969b, p. 10.2 MB).18 He noted that both the Marshall and Clark commissions
agreed on the general proposition that men should be exposed to the draft for 12 months at about their 20th year. If a man was not inducted, his draft liability should then end . . . except in emergency situations. . . .
I believe that a reform of the draft selection system along these lines makes good sense and that you should support it. . . . In addition to this needed reform . . . I hope that when the time comes to select a new Selective Service Director, it will be possible for him to be a civilian. (Laird, 1969b, pp. 1, 30.2 MB)
Even though key members of the White House staff considered reforming Selective Service as merely applying cosmetics to a system many “viewed as inequitable and capricious” (Rose, 19690.1 MB), the legislative proposal Laird sent the Bureau of the Budget on March 4, 1969, which included the use of a lottery, drove the agenda.19 It also set up a direct conflict between the Secretary of Defense and the Director of Selective Service. Laird told the President that
General Hershey concur[red] in the draft reform bill, as restoring the broad authority of the President to determine the manner of selection for induction, and he suggested a technical addition with which we agree. However, his suggested revision . . . eliminates all references to lottery. It is not advisable to submit a bill to the Congress to reassert the President’s broad authority without explaining that he intends to institute lottery selection. (Laird, 1969d0.1 MB)
The lottery issue, as proposed by Laird, was discussed at a Cabinet meeting on April 30, 1969 (Rose, 19691.5 MB).20 After the Cabinet meeting, the administration adopted Laird’s position and the procedures recommended by the Burke Marshall commission in 1967 (Marshall, 19679.2 MB). Nixon asked Congress on May 13, 1969, “to amend the Military Service Act of 1967, returning to the President the power, which he had prior to June 30, 1967, to modify call-up procedures” (Nixon, 1969d0.2 MB). In late June, John Ehrlichman, one of Nixon’s most senior aides, asked Laird to report on “the status of the draft reform proposal” (Laird, 1969e0.1 MB). Laird responded that, “[s]ince General Hershey is responsible for administering the draft law, the draft reform legislation was actually forwarded to the Congress by Selective Service concurrent with the President’s Message” (Laird, 1969e0.1 MB). Having said that, Laird told Ehrlichman he had already approached the two Armed Services Committee Chairmen, John Stennis (D-Mississippi) and L. Mendel Rivers, but they were noncommittal on when they might hold hearings.
At the end of August, Laird reported to Nixon that “Congress will not act on your draft reform legislation in this year without an all out campaign by the Administration” (Laird, 1969f0.7 MB). He pressed the President to consider moving forward by Executive Order.21 The White House was desperate and considered launching “a new program to give the widest publicity to the President’s program on the 19-year-old [lottery] draft” (Klein, 19690.8 MB).
What to Do About General Hershey?
Just as Martin Anderson was the point man on the all-volunteer force, Peter Flanigan was the point man on Selective Service and dealing with General Hershey. By 1969, Hershey, who had held the job since 1940, had become a very controversial figure. Even before the administration took office, Congressman Donald Rumsfeld (R-Illinois) lobbied the transition team to replace Hershey: “it would be a terrible, terrible mistake if he were not replaced” (Rumsfeld, 19680.2 MB). Laird felt the same way. He told the President that
We have no control over, and no responsibility for, the policies and operations of Selective Service. Yet because it is run by a man who is technically on active duty as a Lieutenant General, most people think Selective Service is an arm of the Department of Defense. The Armed Forces have enough of an image problem as it is without being blamed for the wrongs or apparent wrongs of Selective Service. (Laird, 1969b0.2 MB)
On February 17, 1969, H. R. Haldeman conveyed Nixon’s decision to replace Hershey to Peter Flanigan but was concerned about the political fallout and the need to “lay the ground work first by using our veterans groups to give us recommendations on a replacement” (Haldeman, 1969a0.1 MB). As Haldeman saw it, “The problems . . . will come . . . from the organized veterans groups, the draft boards, and the Congress; so it is important to have it properly prepared before any action is taken” (Haldeman, 1969a0.1 MB).22 In fact, it would take a year before Hershey was replaced.
The issue of what to do about Hershey dragged on through the spring and summer, 23 but by September, with the debate on Selective Service reform finally moving ahead and with Hershey’s opposition to key features of the reform package,24 it was becoming critical. Herb Klein, the White House Director of Communications, raised with Flanigan and Ehrlichman his concerns about replacing “Lewis Hershey so this doesn’t come in the middle of . . . [the draft reform] campaign” (Klein, 19690.8 MB). By early October, arrangements had been made for Hershey to step aside. As part of the arrangements, Hershey wanted the dignity of a meeting with the President.25 At the meeting on October 10, 1969, Nixon thanked Hershey for his service and told the General how much he looked forward to his guidance in the future regarding matters of manpower mobilization (Flanigan, 1969c0.2 MB). After the meeting, the White House announced that, effective February 16, 1970 — one day short of a year since Nixon made the decision to replace Hershey — Lieutenant General Lewis Hershey would be promoted to General and moved to a new position, “Advisor to the President on Manpower Mobilization, . . . [to] advise the President on a broad range of manpower mobilization problems” (White House Press Secretary, 1969a0.3 MB).
Push for Selective Service Reform
The renewed push for Selective Service reform started on September 19, 1969 with a statement from the Secretary of Defense on the draft. Laird started by noting the President’s “decision to move forward through executive action to put into effect major portions of his draft proposals” (Laird, 1969h0.6 MB). The campaign had immediate results; a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee held hearings on September 30, 1969. With the movement in Congress, Flanigan was concerned that
Secretary Laird’s public statements may undermine the efforts to get lottery and “moving age” legislation through Congress by pledging the Administration to act by executive action . . . [a]nd commit the Administration to adoption of a “moving age” system that is, at best, untested and difficult to administer. (Lynn, 19690.5 MB)
He recommended to the President that he direct Laird to curtail “additional public speculation concerning the adoption of an Executive Order . . . until Congress has been given a chance to act” (Lynn, 19690.5 MB). In fact, Congress did act and passed H.R. 14001, An Act to Amend the Military Selective Service Act of 1967. President Nixon signed it into law on November 26, 1969, in a ceremony in the Roosevelt Room. At the signing the President said,
As far as this draft reform bill is concerned, it does not remove all of the inequity of the draft, because there will be inequity as long as any of our young men have to serve when others do not have to serve. But the agony and suspense and uncertainty which has hung over our young generation for seven years can now be reduced to one year, and other very needed reforms in the draft can be made by Executive Order. (Nixon, 1969g0.1 MB)
Nixon singled out the DoD initiative and the bipartisan support in Congress and said he would not be “satisfied until we finally can have the system, which I advocated during the campaign of a completely volunteer system” (Nixon, 1969g0.1 MB). By proclamation, he directed
[t]hat a random selection sequence will be established by a drawing to be conducted in Washington, D.C., on December 1, 1969 and will be applied nationwide. . . . The random selection sequence . . . shall determine the order of selection. . . . (Nixon, 1969f0.4 MB)26
The details were specified in an accompanying Executive Order (Nixon, 1969e3.5 MB).27
When the lottery was finally implemented on December 1, 1969, it was done the old-fashioned way, by drawing balls out of two bowls. Ignoring suggestions that the random selection be done by computer, Hershey insisted on using the same fishbowls that had been used in 1940 during the mobilization for World War II. The drawings were made from one bowl that contained letters of the alphabet and another that contained numbers from one to 366.28 To the dismay of many in the White House, statisticians quickly determined that the results were not statistically random. The old method of hand drawing, rather than a more modern method employing computers, became a cliché for everything that was wrong with the Selective Service System; Hershey could not even run a lottery without fouling things up. On December 26, 1969, Kissinger told Nixon that “the Selective Service’s mismanagement of the lottery and the procedures by which it is applied have created serious problems in its implementation” (Kissinger, 1969b0.7 MB). Apparently, “the balls were placed in the jar in calendar order, . . . not random order [and] the stirring did not randomize the balls in the jar” (Kissinger, 1969b0.7 MB). In the eyes of the White House staff, a change in leadership at Selective Service could not come too quickly.
By the fall of 1969, with the broad outline and procedures for Selective Service reform finally moving through Congress, the more-technical issue of specific deferment and exemption standards needed to be addressed. In October 1969, with the backing of Flanigan, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger recommended that the National Security Council staff “undertake a ‘low profile’ review of Selective Service standard guidelines and procedures for deferments and exemptions” (Flanigan, 1969a0.1 MB). On October 8, 1969, National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM) 78 directed that a review of U.S. deferment and exemption policy take place (Kissinger, 1970a0.3 MB). The directive called for the study to be completed by December 1, 1969. Stephen Enke, a consultant from the General Electric Company’s Center for Advanced Studies (also referred to as GE Tempo) was selected as the study director. Harold Wool from DoD and Professor Walter Oi from the Gates Commission and a number of other people from around the government assisted him. While two colonels from Selective Service were also asked to assist, General Hershey did not feel he had been adequately consulted, particularly not “informed of the nature of Dr. Enke’s report” (Hershey, 1969b0.2 MB).
On December 18, 1969, Enke’s Draft Review of Deferments and Exemptions from Selective Service (NSSM 78) was circulated among government agencies to solicit comments so that a final revision might be prepared for submission to the President on January 16, 1970 (Enke, 19695.7 MB).29 During the comment period, Kissinger told Nixon that “this review has pointed out several serious shortcomings in the operation of the new draft lottery system.” Besides the fact that “the random process developed by the Selective Service for use in the lottery was not random” (Kissinger, 1969b0.7 MB), Enke found that the
certainty granted by having an assigned order of call has been reduced greatly by the wide disparities among the procedures of local boards . . . [and] treatment of deferred persons under the new lottery system, because all eligible registrants were assigned a permanent rank of call in the first lottery. (Kissinger, 1969b0.7 MB)
Nixon was particularly concerned that
registrants with relatively late lottery sequence numbers may be drafted by some boards ahead of registrants with earlier sequence numbers, because physical examinations have not been completed for some with early sequence numbers. (Flanigan, 1970a0.2 MB)
He directed Flanigan to get General Hershey to adjust procedures. The President wanted “to prevent the development of dramatic and unnecessary disparities in the sequence numbers of those called throughout the country in a particular month,” Flanigan told Hershey (Flanigan, 1970a0.2 MB). Hershey was less than cooperative. As Flanigan’s staff saw it, Hershey was
out of sympathy . . . with our efforts to implement the lottery program in a rational manner. . . . Hershey has been most reluctant to give us the information required to figure out where the problem is, and what size of call the System could meet without reaching some ridiculously high sequence number this early in the year. Apparently the good General prefers a filibuster to hard facts. (Rose, 19700.6 MB)30
Hershey might be able to stonewall the White House, but he could not delay his departure from Selective Service. On February 16, 1970, as scheduled, Hershey left Selective Service, and Colonel Dee Ingold was designated Acting Director of Selective Service (Flanigan, 1970b0.2 MB) and (Nixon, 1970a0.1 MB).31 Several weeks later, Flanigan, still distressed by the random sequence number problem, told Ingold “to place strong emphasis on the timely preinduction physical examination of registrants with low sequence numbers” (Flanigan, 1970e0.4 MB).
What Flanigan had not appreciated was the depth of Hershey’s rejection of the underlying concept of random selection and a direct national order of call. As far as Hershey was concerned, the new procedures went against everything he knew was responsible for Selective Service’s success since 1940. In his new capacity as the Manpower Mobilization Advisor to the President, Hershey tried once more to change the direction of the administration. In a paper prepared for the National Security Council meeting of March 25, 1970 Hershey told Nixon:
I recommend that the staff of the White House refrain from attempting a day to day supervision which inevitably results in interference with the operation of the Selective Service System. . . .
I recommend strongly against any adoption of centralization, ignoring of states, and centralizing power here that have been heretofore delegated to the states and to the communities.
The strength of the Selective Service System has been in the individual’s acceptance of responsibilities by Governors and by local board members with local board areas. This must not be tampered with in the name of equity, in the name of machine operation, or some other thing except understanding and ability to devise some other system which can replace one which has heretofore been able under all circumstances, difficult and otherwise, to carry out its function. (Hershey, 1970a, pp. 2, 30.5 MB)
He argued that the White House had “completely misunderstood the purpose that Congress intended in restoring to the President his former powers.” The present system was a “perversion,” he told the President, that ignored “the clear letter and intent of Congress to use the sequence only in determining priority within the local boards and not nationally” (Hershey, 1970a, pp. 2-30.5 MB). Finally, to the heart of the NSSM 78 issue, he recommended that the President take no actions until Congress abolished or restricted student deferments.
On March 30, 1970, he again wrote Nixon to press his case:
I repeat my recommendation that unless and until the Congress legislates on the student deferment, the President refrain from issuing an Executive Order removing deferment from registrants in the field of education, occupation, or dependency. (Hershey, 1970b0.7 MB)
A decade later, everything that Hershey had rejected was included in the Selective Service Revitalization Plan of 1981.32
Selecting a New Director of Selective Service
With Hershey gone, Flanigan focused on finalizing the nomination of his replacement and getting him confirmed. The leading candidate — Charles DiBona, President of the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) — was, however, running into trouble in the Senate. The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Stennis, told Ken BeLieu of the White House:
I like him personally but if he doesn’t tone down his remarks about the all-volunteer army he can torpedo the Draft, the Committee and the President. It’s probably just a lack of experience, but all he needed to say is I follow the President on the all-volunteer army. He brought up the all-volunteer army when he should have confined his remarks to Draft problems and need for its extension. (BeLieu, 1970a0.3 MB)33
The center of the opposition came from Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R-Maine). She told BeLieu, “I doubt very much if I could agree to him at this time because I think he opposes the draft. I’m disturbed because of his outright championing of the volunteer army before facts are in” (BeLieu, 1970a0.3 MB). She had made the connection between CNA, the University of Rochester, the Gates Commission, and the All-Volunteer Force.34 The final blow came when Senator Barry Goldwater (R-Arizona) told BeLieu six senators would “[join] Senator Smith against DiBona” (BeLieu, 1970b0.1 MB). The President withdrew DiBona’s nomination.
With DiBona out of the way, a new search started for Hershey’s replacement. Laird weighed in, initially suggesting that the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, William K. Brehm, should be considered. He quickly withdrew the recommendation when the Secretary of the Army, Stan Resor, objected, saying he needed Brehm at the Pentagon (Wallace, 19700.1 MB). Next up was Curtis Tarr, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. Tarr had been considered early in the search but said that he preferred to stay with the Air Force. Now, with DiBona’s withdrawal, he became the leading candidate. Nixon approved his nomination on March 2, 1970, when Flanigan told Nixon that Tarr’s “experience as a university president, a vice president of a manufacturing company and a Republican candidate for Congress make him uniquely qualified both to meet the congressional objections and to handle the job.” Tarr’s only request was a “few minutes with you [the President] so that you can express the importance of, and your interest in, his taking over the Selective Service System at this difficult moment” (Flanigan, 1970c0.1 MB). On March 4, 1970, the President met with Tarr.35 On March 10, 1970, the President was advised that “All necessary checks have been completed,” and on March 12, 1970, the Press Office released the “intent to nominate” press notice (White House Press Secretary, 1970b0.2 MB). His nomination “sailed through” the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 18, 1970, with no dissenting votes (Bullen, 19700.2 MB).
Whether by design or, more likely, by happenstance and with Tarr in place and NSSM 78 completed, the issues of draft reform and the all-volunteer force merged again as they had at the first National Security Council meeting on January 25, 1969.36 Tarr played a prominent role at the National Security Council meeting on March 25, 1970, leading that portion of the discussions that dealt with Selective Service reform. The outcome of that meeting was incorporated in Nixon’s address to Congress on April 23, 1970, which covered both the issues of the all-volunteer force and draft reform (Nixon, 1969a0.1 MB). In the meantime, with the “credibility of the President’s lottery program in large part rest[ing] upon a successful solution to the problems of quotas and calls,” Tarr was told to “correct any existing difficulties with as little public fanfare as possible” (Flanigan, 1970f1.4 MB).37 He reorganized Selective Service National Headquarters (White House Press Secretary, 1970b0.2 MB) and, the following October, sent Nixon “a short report on our progress and some of our problems” (Tarr, 1970b, p. 11.4 MB). He acknowledged that
the random selection system . . .was not operating as well as its proponents hoped that it would . . . . One of my first decisions was to hold each State Director responsible for providing not only those inductees requested in the ensuing months, but also to make up for his early shortages. . . .
By the end of August we had eliminated completely our shortages. (Tarr, 1970b, p. 21.4 MB)
Addressing one of the critical problems, the unevenness in sequence numbers called, he told the President that
[t]his year we do not expect to exceed random selection number 195 anywhere in the United States. . . .
Thus your Administration has fulfilled the desiderata set forth when random selection was adopted last fall. (Tarr, 1970b, p. 21.4 MB)
18 Several days after the initial National Security Council meeting on January 25, 1969, Laird received a comprehensive review of the Selective Service problem from Fitt. Fitt told Laird that “the short term problem . . . [is] that the armed forces need only about half the fully qualified young men who turn 19 each year. . . . the figure will become only 1 in 7 . . . when we revert to pre-Vietnam strengths” (Fitt, 1969c0.2 MB).
19 Anderson was one of the White House staffers who thought the move to a lottery was “cosmetic.” He told Arthur Burns on March 3, “A move to a lottery draft system . . . may lull enough people into thinking that meaningful reform has been achieved, thus delaying effective action” (Anderson, 1969c0.3 MB).
20 Anderson tried again to persuade Arthur Burns just days before the upcoming Cabinet meeting of scheduled for April 30, 1969. On April 24th, Anderson told Burns that the
institution of a lottery would increase draft calls. . . . A lottery would tend to focus dissatisfaction with the draft on the White House, rather than diffusing it on many thousands of local draft boards. . . . A lottery is a cosmetic type of form that would not focus on fundamental problems. (Anderson, 1969e0.1 MB)
His concern that this was in conflict with the ongoing efforts of the Gates Commission, and that, “[we] should wait until they have finished their report before taking any action on this issue” (Anderson, 1969e0.1 MB) suggests that either he was not attuned to the dual strategy of working both the all-volunteer force and selective service reform issues simultaneously, or that following such a path had not been a conscious decision on the part of the administration.
21 The “Executive Order” option had been developed by Assistant Secretary of Defense Roger Kelley (1969a0.4 MB). In September 1969, Laird reported to Nixon,
General Hershey is initiating a pilot test in collaboration with Defense to define these procedures, to determine whether the system is fully workable and whether it can be made readily understandable to the public. . . . I believe these efforts will put us in a sound position to choose the most effective alternative in case we cannot obtain early congressional action. (Laird, 1969g0.4 MB)
22 Haldeman also reported that Nixon wanted the post “filled by a civilian rather than a military officer” (Haldeman, 1969a0.1 MB).
23 During the spring, Haldeman, citing “the significance this will have in the youth community” (Haldeman, 1969b0.1 MB), was pressing Flanigan to “find out who can talk to Hershey and persuade him to submit his resignation now” (Haldeman, 1969b0.1 MB).
24 Hershey wrote the President on September 3, 1969,
Implementation of the so-called Mark Clark conveyor belt is far more complicated than would appear on its face and is extremely difficult of explanation to the point of acceptance by the public. While on its face it would appear a simple compression of the present method of calling people from age 19 to age 26 to age 19 to age 20, this very compression would multiply the present administrative difficulties and opportunities for legal action to the point they could seriously endanger the successful operation of the System. (Hershey, 1969a0.3 MB)
25 In the preparation for the meeting, Flanigan told the President, “General Hershey requested the opportunity to meet with you prior to the announcement of his transfer from the post of Director of Selective Service” (Flanigan, 1969b0.1 MB).
26 The results of the lottery were widely reported in the media. For example, one issue of U.S. News & World Report (1969) contained a “Clip Out and Save” display of the lottery results.
27 A fact sheet was also prepared and distributed by the White House Press Office (White House Press Secretary, 1969b1.2 MB).
28 The scene is described in Flynn (1985, p. 283).
29 DoD’s comments on the draft report were sent to Kissinger on January 19, 1970 (Laird, 1970a1.5 MB). Laird’s recommendations were incorporated in the final version except for two points dealing with student deferments (Kelley, 1970a0.2 MB). Enke prepared summary comments and forwarded them to Selective Service and the White House staff (Enke, 1970a0.6 MB). Enke also prepared a draft of a memorandum for the President and sent it to John Court of the National Security Council and Jonathan Rose and Martin Anderson of the White House (Enke, 1970b4.7 MB).
30 Author’s Note: On March 2, 1970, the new Acting Director, Colonel Dee Ingold, explained to Flanigan that “[r]evival of support for the frequently reviewed proposal to compute fixed calls at a central point for all 4,100 local boards suggests the advisability of reassessing some of the arguments in opposition” (Ingold, 19700.5 MB). He still concluded it would not be advisable to have a single national call. In 1980, when I was Director of Selective Service, the procedures I put into place provided for a single national order of call. If Selective Service were activated today, it would operate with a single national order of call.
31 In the Washington fashion, Hershey’s move out of Selective Service became irreversible the next night — Tuesday, February 17, 1970 — when President Nixon hosted a dinner at the White House in honor of the General and Mrs. Hershey. Those attending included the civilian and military leadership of the federal government and members of the Gates Commission (White House Staff, 19700.8 MB). The Army Chief of Staff, General William Westmoreland, told the President how he and the other military leaders appreciated the dinner for Hershey, a man they all admired for “his dedication, integrity and steadfastness over the years” (Westmoreland, 19700.2 MB).
32 Author’s Note: I developed that plan when I was President Carter’s Director of Selective Service. It was not until I reviewed the material for this book that I realized that the system I put in place was so antithetical to the one Hershey had built. This help explains the hostility I received from several of the “old guard.” The design I implemented, however, stands today.
33 Author’s Note: I had the same experience with Senator Stennis in 1979, except the issue came up before my confirmation hearing. At the actual hearing, I ducked all questions on the volunteer force and answered only questions about the draft. The Army Times headline after my confirmation hearing was “Draft System Nominee Ducks All-Vol Question.”
34 On January 30, 1969, David J. Callard and Chairman Gates visited Senator Stennis and Ed Brasswell, Stennis’ senior aide, to “inform the Senator of the Commission’s progress.” After the meeting, he visited with Senator Smith for about 30 minutes. Callard noted that Senator Smith
had no particular questions to ask about the Commission’s work. She was extremely interested in the Center for Naval Analyses, of which Charles DiBona is President. She seems to know that CNA has done a considerable amount of work for the Commission, and she showed keen interest in exactly what CNA had done. (Callard, 1970a0.5 MB)