tv Building an All- Volunteer Force After Vietnam CSPAN August 5, 2019 5:01pm-6:02pm EDT
american history tv like lectures in history, american artifacts, reel america, the civil war, oral histories, the presidency and special event coverage about our nation's history. enjoy american history tv now and every weekend on c-span 3. plap. in 1971, president richard nixon ordered the end of the u.s. draft, but it did not officially end until 1973. coming up now, military historians discuss the transition into an all-volunteer force while examining why the president decided to end the draft. they also look at whether it is better for war time moral. held at the university of kansas. this is about an hour. so this is the final panel before our key note address. and it is the second section looking at the ways in which the military as an institution and
military leaders attempted to confront the crisis that most of us have agreed actually did occur in the vietnam war. i am beth bailey. i'll be moderating this. sitting next to me is richard hunt who has written the biography of melvin laird. next to him is bob griffith who is the world expert on the creation of the all-volunteer force. and next to him is jennifer middlestat who has written a really wonderful book called the military welfare state. and i wrote a book called america's army, creating the all-volunteer force. so i'm at least qualified to be asking questions up here. and there is no way that i'm going to match in my suavity as
moderator. i'll do my best. i think that everyone of us sitting up here would agree that there is no one factor that explains why the united states moved to an all-volunteer force, but at the same time we are sitting here as part of a panel that directly ties the move to military leader's attempts to manage the powers of manpower moral in vietnam. the presumption is that we answered the questions simply by sitting here. i would argue that the suggested link is both misleading and fruitful. and i'm not sure what the rest of the panelists think. so i'm going to ask them. and i want to ask each of them
to respond to this question. there will be other questions that are a little bit more individual. maybe we'll start down at the end with jennifer first. >> are we supposed to use the mic? first of all, thank you, beth, for putting this panel together. i'm so delighted to be here. i'm especially delighted to be here with my co-panelists from whom i have learned a great deal including you. all of us. it's a great panel. yeah, i agree with you. when i saw the question which was whether or not these problems and moral and discipline sort of played a causal role in creating the all-volunteer force, i also thought that's a kind of
problematic question. i think while there is no one cause, i think pretty definitively we can say that the answer is no, swael. just based on the timing of the evidence of the increase in discipline and the increase in problems with moral, we can time that with the on set of the sort of clear policy consensus which begins three quarters of the way or so through or toward the end of '68 when all the presidential candidates announced that they will be ending the draft. and quite simply there isn't yet evidence of a huge moral problem in vietnam. so it's certainly not a causal factor.
i think it has come to be understood that way. and there is a way the story has been written as one that answered the problems of moral and indiscipline that became evident in the vietnam war. maybe we can talk a little bit more about why and how that happens. but i don't think that there is any causal role here. we can talk about what some of the other causes are. i don't think it's a causal role. will it influence the shape of the avf? yes. will it influence the shape of it? yes. but it's not a causal role. >> thanks, jennifer. i'm going to disagree slightly. i do see a causal role, because the moral issues and the indiscipline issues that we have been discussing today were already showing up in the army
as a hole. and the army's leadership was concerned about that in trying to figure out one of the best ways to deal with it. but i will point out who wrote a very good history of the end of the draft and the beginning of the all volunteer force identified five reasons. first about american history has been a volunteer army. we only had draft armys in world war i. i'm not going to talk about the civil war. world war i and world war ii. and for a brief period after world war ii encompassing the korean war.
then they -- another reason was that by the '60s, the size of the eligible population for conscription was so large that they couldn't draft everybody. in fact, the issue became who serves when all cannot serve? and there were so many deferments added and exemptions added to the law that by that time, there were more reasons not to serve that a person wouldn't have to serve than they'd have to serve. people increasingly began to realize what the inequity was there. there was a body of thought that
i'll skip one. finally, the army itself had lost confidence in the draft. they were having increasing problems with the draft and with the problems of draftees serving in the force. and they were looking for ways to manage manpower absent the draft. i'll stop there. >> my focus was looking in my book on laird as secretary of defense. the issue of ending the draft and with nixon and with laird i think was a political one. laird came into the position of
secretary of defense, former politician, understands the law is incredibly unpopular, is looking ahead about the war is going to end and i have to be responsible for building the armed forces up and preparing them for after the war. i think there was also within the american population a group of different groups who are opposing the draft system. there were civil libitarians who didn't like the draft because it was infringing on personal liberties. and people wanted to reform the draft and make it a much fairer and more equitable. a free market economist who objected to compulsery military service at wages below market wages. so they turned out to be a very
persuasive group wen the commission which was set up by nixon in 1969 to study whether to go to an all-volunteer force. and i think it should be mentioned, we've talked about most moral issues and that sort of thing this morning. but the vietnam war also exacted a heavy toll on military institutions, the war fighters' equipment, moral, stocks of supplies. it also had a weakening effect on military alliances. one of the things as secretary of defense to get people into vietnam was to pull out troops and equipment from units in europe. i think just to reiterate,
laird's perspective and i think nixon's too was we want a political component dampening the anti-war protests and ending the draft and moving to an all-volunteer force as a component is an important part of that. >> well, let's -- did you want to -- >> i'd like to go back to a couple of points, too. as richard said, nixon saw this as a political maneuver essentially to put off the anti-war youth folk that he could capture the youth folk that by promising to end the draft this would be a good
thing. he accepted the argument of freedman and some of his disciples who were well placed in the government, one of whom was martin anderson who was a disciple of freedman and became one of his chief counselors and kept the issue in front of nixon and reminded him right after he was elected that he had promised to end the draft, and pushed him until he announced that he was going to do so. >> he said he was going to cut the -- come up with a plan he
had a deadline and i think the commission had to be finished with this work by may of 1969. so nixon was very serious. i think the political component was very strong in nixon's mind. >> so the question that i was trying to get to ask was about nixon's attitudes about ending the draft. and i still want to ask that question a little bit for a more focussed discussion, because it's 2 1/2 weeks before the presidential election in 1968. and for those of you in the room old enough to remember 1968, it was a period of division and chaos and violence in american society. and nixon goes on national radio and makes a pledge at the height of the commitment of u.s. troops to vietnam that he's going to end the draft. obviously, he's not going to end the draft while we still have ground combat troops in vietnam. this is a big step. and what we've been talking about today so far has been very
much about the experiences within vietnam. to some extent, it's almost as if there is this isolated entity where the war is being fought and isn't connected to the politics domestic or geopolitical. it's simply the war itself and the moral of those men and the small number of women who are fighting who are in vietnam. so to what extent does it make sense for us to talk about what we've been talking about today, moral and manpower in vietnam without thinking more about the domestic pressures that exists? and so can we say a little bit more about what nixon's motivations were when he looked out at the country, how much was he looking to vietnam? how much was he looking to the domestic politics? why after making this brash
promise essentially, he had no sign on from anybody that mattered, none of the generals, nobody in the office of the secretary of defense. and he moved forward. so i would just like to hear a little bit more about what you think the motivations were. >> i would agree with my co panelists that the motivation seems primarily political from nixon's perspective. but i think this also gives us the opportunity to think about just how powerful a role domestic politics plays in this. when we think about how much the army, though, it may have been asking about its policies and thinking about the fact really was quite taken by surprise and appalled at the idea that as they were involved in an increasingly difficult war, they
would also be tasked with coming up with a plan for ending a draft and returning to some kind of volunteer force. the return is probably not the right word. it actually took on quite a different shape than previous eras in the volunteer force. so you know i think in multiple ways today we've been having discussions about what's going on in vietnam without appreciating the many different ways that domestic politics were impacting what was happening in theater. i think this is one of those ways. it ended up in my book about the army's reaction in particular. it was just flat fear at the idea that nixon had made this announcement. and now it was a bipartisan
consensus with support from the american populist that the draft would have to end when it looked like there was no end in sight really for the war. so it really put them in this incredibly difficult position. and it may also -- this is one of the things we haven't talked about -- one of the things that we haven't really talked about is the degree to which the decision to end the draft itself plays into the moral and discipline problems. i mean, we have been talking about it more in terms of military strategy and whether or not there is a sense that you can win the war. but what does it also mean to announce that you are going to end the draft, but then still be a draftee, thinking about those impacts in vietnam. >> the process is very interesting and i think revealing.
before nixon made his speech in october he had already read the handwriting on the wall. he ordered a close holed study in the office of the chief of staff on whether and how we could end the draft if it was geeg to happen anyway. it didn't have to be on the wrong side of the decision. and he's been historically the conventional wisdom is the army is dragged kicking and screaming into the all-volunteer force. they had already studied it. and the staff action officer who did the initial staff report reported in december of '68 that
it was feasible if properly resourced. and then westmoreland ordered a full-scale study called operation provide to look at the whole thing. following the report in the initial report in march of '69, then the d.o.d. got into action and had its own study. and once the report was -- that report was rendered, the military was more or less ready once the orders were given to start its process. and that i think is very different from what most people understand. >> i would note a couple of
things regarding to follow-up with bob. in 1965, just before -- d.o.d. did a study of the draft. one of the recommendations they were thinking about was an all-volunteer force. that study was put on the shelf because of the buildup in vietnam. in 1968 in october, again, not referring to discipline problems, alford fit who is the assistant secretary of defense from reserve affairs initiated a study on his own on how to reduce or eliminate conscription. he stayed in office.
wanted to seize that issue and come up with a way to approach the problem of ending the draft. >> so one thing that we all learned by going through these records is that there was an awful lot of preparation, just in case fingers crossed. a lot of forward thinking about contingencies. and my question here is there are many different circumstances in which one could move from conscription force to an all-volunteer force. and this might have been the most challenging possible moment to do so given the failing war in vietnam, given the decreasing respect of much of the american
population for its military, given the lack of interest in many young people to serve. try to prepare for what the army was going to mean recruiting 20 to 30,000 people a month which is quite striking when you compare it to the recruiting short falls today. >> the commission advocated ending by 1979. laird, nixon and secretary reese have said no, that's too soon.
we're still fighting a war. we just can't stop recruiting people until we have a system in place that works and is funded. that was a critical thing to make sure they got money from congress to pay for the higher salaries. that was one of the ways that they thought they were going to make the all-volunteer force succeed was to make military service more attractive, not just in terms of pay, but eliminate a lot of the duties. more freedom in the barics. and the army studied this program. at the same time, it just has the program. he's pulling people out of vietnam to save money. so he's kind of -- it's kind of a very delicate balancing act of cutting the forces in vietnam
and he instituted a policy of lower draft calls. but he didn't want the draft ended until there was an all-volunteer system in place that was going to work and had a chance to succeed, because he realized he was still responsible for making sure there was enough. >> that's right. the army's plan up to that point was they would not start to shift to a zero draft posture until the war was over, but laird and nixon accelerated that time table so that there was to
be no further drafts by 1973. one of the things in response to that was to create a program manager, if you will, for this high level, highly respected general officer who is going to manage the whole thing. o outside of the normal staffing procedures. and that general was lieutenant general george forscythe who was considered to be something of a maverick and highly respected because he developed the air mobile concept.
air mobile test division to vietnam, had it refragged and was the first commander. he was highly respected for that. westmoreland gave an incredible latitude to go directly to west moreland if he had an issue in implementing the plans and the secretary of the army. a and -- between the two of them, they created the office which in turn created a test bed which
became known as volar, the volunteer army where they came up in the process with what forscythe called 172 -- 670 jim dandy things that they were going to experiment with throughout the army. this included low cost a, no cost activities such as ending mandatory formations and allowing to partition barics and decorate them to taste. you can imagine what that resulted in.
it addressed ending some things. up and down the army staff, westmore nd opposed it but accepted it because he realized this was going to deal with a major irritation to troops. and last ly five day weeks, enlisted men's council where the officer would sit in on a rap session. the army staff hated this because they said it amounted to a soldier's union where they
would be able to question activities by the commanding staff. he also had a major upheaval and increase in funding for the recruiting command because even if they were going to go to an all-volunteer army, they were still going to have to recruit people using the term -- and the last thing i will just mention is experimenting with paid television advertising for recruiting. >> so i think i would just highlight maybe two issues related to this. i think one of the major challenges is a budgetary
challenge. one of the things that's happening domestically politically within the united states is that congress is seriously questioning the military budget beginning in the early 1970s. and they're doing so i think both because of high ongoing costs of the war but also the anticipated costs of the shift to the all-volunteer force. so trying to make in the many ways it is a challenging moment to make the switch to the volunteer force. how will we have the higher pay and be able to extend military benefits to all ranks if we want to recruit a volunteer force. these budgetary questions are very serious in the vietnam era. the other thing that i want to
talk about maybe a little bit is how when we think about the discussion we've been having so far today which is about questions of discipline, moral, permissiveness in vietnam, the problems of racial discrimination in vietnam, these same issues are actually the issues that project would provide. framing them in an utterly different way. why is it okay to have rap sessions and to have long hair to divide your barics to drink beer in the barics if we're talking about them. it is okay. if we're talking about them in the context of recruiting a volunteer force. they become discipline problems in the context of vietnam. these are happening almost simultaneously. so the rates for the increasing
indiscipline and perceived problems surrounding racial discrimination in vietnam are 69, 70, 71, 72. these are the -- this is exactly the same years when the army is experimenting with and trying to decide how it can, in fact, become more permissive. how it can, in fact, become less discriminatory, how it can offer other channels outside of kind of old style hierarchy in command or in addition to those. for me, it's a kind of -- what is the right -- it's a parallel world or something where the same issues that are problems in vietnam are being treated like problems to intelligently solve on the homefront in order to recruit and retain the necessary numbers that you'll need for the
volunteer force. maybe that's something that we can have a discussion about as we go forward. >> i want to chime in on the hair issue. survey, it was less than nine months after hamburger hill. i think it was plurality of soldiers said their biggest concern was hair which is just hard to believe. following up on what jennifer said, thinking about the ways in which, it's not just a problem to be solved, but these are advertised benefits. the same thing is being complained about. there are parallel tracks. so i guess the question to follow-up with there is there is
a sense there is a crisis of moral in vietnam. and it's plamed on a whole variety of different things. we have had a lot of interesting smart discussion of that today. there is also a narrative of crisis for the all-volunteer force over the first decade of its existence to the point that in 1979 it seems like it may just go away and the media is proclaiming the failure before we have even stopped drafting people. there was a sense that there was no way this was going to work. the only way we were going to get a decent volunteer force is to draft it was the joke that went around. so how do we make sense of the continueuation of this crisis narrative over the first year of the all-volunteer force. if there is a crisis of moral in vietnam and a crisis to the all-volunteer force, does it have anything to do with vietnam? or is it a broader problem?
anybody who wants to join in. >> it was also a pr problem. one of the -- the initial reaction to all soldiers -- and that's retirees and senior officers and ncos, to some of the jim dandy things that forscythe wanted to experiment with was we're giving away the store. we're being permissive. so very quickly forscythe put his people to work on this. they repackaged the whole thing. we're not being permissive. weerp rr restoring professionalism that has also been adversely affected by all of these moral, drug, racial problems. the way westmoreland put it was
if the army stopped treating the soldier as a juvenile and started dealing with him, and i'm quoting, like a responsible man, he will act like one. and that's what they really began to push. because slowing things down, they were able to get back into normal training cycles. it also involved educating officers, junior officers and mid grade officers as to what the whole point was. westmoreland and forscythe and other folks went around the country speaking to everybody. as to what this was all about. that is really i think it.
congress went along with it mainly because senior leaders like senator stens. and senior members of congress accepted it and were willing to try. they did have some big budgetary increases. there were subsequent reductions in cuts which would drive people mad. there was at one point when westmoreland was quoted as saying the story in my life in this building is being given a job to do and not being given
the resources to do it with. they did muddle through. i think that that is the ultimate story. >> i would just add to follow-up on what bob is saying, the recruiting issue the army learned how to recruit better. some of the early slogans were not very attractive. i think it was max thurman when he was brought in to join the army, be all you can be. it was a positive message, a professional message. i think at that point the army had gotten more money and a better sense of how to proceed to recruit. >> i just wanted to bring the discussion back a little bit to sort of the premise of your
question which was i think a question about how perceptions about low moral and problems in vietnam sort of bleed over into the volunteer force era. and from the perspective of the 1980s and especially like '81, '82, '83 when the avf sort of stabilizes and the army takes a big deep breath and tarstarts t write its history, it's my sense actually that there is quite a blurred line between what is perceived as a kind of dysfunction of the army during vietnam at the end of that war that kind of has a hangover effect all the way through the 1970s. and that hangover has to do with sort of the way the military is
viewed and has a little bit to do -- and has a lot to do with budgetary things when the army claims that its budget was cut so drastically and wasn't until reagan that the budget goes up again. it has to do with getting a handle on the kind of recruits who are coming in. there are still a lot of what we have referred to as low quality recruits. in fact, the recruits that are still category fours coming into the 1970s. there is a problem with the testing. it is way more than they thought there were. there are all kinds of problems. i think it's become a shorthand, though, in a kind of larger debate about the transition to the avf to say that the avf solves the problems that were quite evident about the draft at the end of the vietnam war. and that just blurs the issues far too much. and i think sort of casts a
false narrative both about the vietnam war, but also about the draft versus the all volunteer for force. i'm sort of interested in the investment of many people in that story that thank heavens that avf solved the problems that the draft created. clearly from what we've heard today and from all kinds of other histories including your other than, we know that not to be true, but it's still very powerful shorthand for explaining it and i think kind of obscures some of the more difficult issues that need to be confronted about the avf and the vietnam war itself. >> why don't we open it up to the audience for questions? please remember to stand up when you speak.
>> i have enjoyed listening to all of you. thank you very much for that. one of the things that keeps coming back in my mind is remember when the lbj was decided that the military would not -- the reserve forces would not be used during the vietnam war. that broke with tradition. it set a nutrition, broke the old tradition. and why wasn't it looking at that as an alternative way of getting back to the old tradition again. why would the results -- was an increased reliance on the reserve forces which means that we got away from lbj's
established nutrition and returning in a sense to the old tradition. i'm interested in what your perception is on that, whether that was truly an accidental effect or whether it was something they were planning on. and as an addive to that, i would hike to ask about the future that we might see because of the breakage in traditions. what we're getting into right now we are seeing a lot of both civilian and military, a lot of physics, a lot of techies who are individual performers rather than purely soldiering along as a part of the group, we're seeing an increased reliance on the need to have technical experts in the future. will that in some sense of the future lead us to another break
with tradition where we figure out how to use the individuals who will not conform? >> i'd like to address the first part of your question about the reserves. one of laird's proudest achievements was what he called the total force policy. it was a directive that he put out to make sure that the reserves and the guard got more resources. so it was the deliberate sort of side effect of the all-volunteer force. >> i was going to mention that, too. the concept, the total force concept was a direct outcome of both the transition to the all-volunteer force, but the fact that we could not do without a sufficient backup.
much of the doctrine during that peri period, developed during that period, focussed on the volunteer force being the lead element. and if that needed to be increased, we wouldn't do it by going back to the draft. you would be doing it by involving the reserves and the guard. the other thing i think he were eluding to was at least in my mind this new concept about -- i have it on the tip of my tongue. the total combat development. it's just been expressed in the last couple of years. and i had it written down.
i'm just becoming aware of it myself. and that has to do with this -- excuse me. large scale combat operations where the army is thinking about larger scale wars. the enemy we are now starting to think about and plan for are big countries, china, russia, in the middle east iran. will the volunteer force be sufficient to respond to that
kind of a threat environment? that's going to be, i think, a major question that will come up in the not too distant future. will the all-recruited force be sufficient to meet those kinds of threats? or are we going to see another round of discussion as to whether or not we need to return to a draft? i don't have an answer to that. >> i would just also add that there is another option. there is evidence that the military is pursuing which is a contract enforced. so you can have recruits and volunteers, but you can also have privately contracted people. i think particularly in areas where it is quite hard to recruit, cyber, for example, one option is thinking clearly a lot of it is, there is a fair amount
of contracting involved there. i think, also, i was struck. i don't have the answer to this. i was struck last year about the discussionsthe discussion that seemed far more free-flowing at least among my kernels about the idea of letting people come in and do a year or two years in order to get people with expertise cast in bridging a military and civilian divide way but i think it is a question of expertise that's quite serious. >> i want us to go back to a point which is the question of hair. it's actually really important when talking about morale, to
think about the cultural effect and cultural practices. not just talking about african-americans but particularly hispanic, latin american soldiers or whatever language you use that-- having a barber to cut your hair matted. it meant the military or a representative of the us acknowledged that you were part of its history. also for the-- these practices became important as a way to try to give those particularly -- disillusioned by their service, a way to express
themselves that they cannot maintain the real-- to acknowledge who they were. it probably goes back to latin americans cycling back to the turn-of-the-century and how you have to present yourself with one hand. i think we also acknowledge that. it helps to explain a little bit may be why the military-- be more permissible. we continue to use that word in various ways but i just wanted to kind of acknowledge that. >> you have to remember the advertisement of we care more how you think that how you cut your hair, it was responded to an in all caps memo saying this is showing the potential to-- someone in the military. >> i want someone to open acknowledge that for me as you can guess, morale and mental
health are two sides of the same coin. my point is, for me, the end was a decompression factor that has useful political significance. if you don't need more troops you don't have to draft them. we are no longer having all volunteer arms but it was a big experienced. we got away with it for 25 years until 9/11 and then what have we done to the troops? we keep turning them back to deployment and the pt lest-- ptsd level. the diagnosis didn't even exist and now in vietnam it seems to be a huge proportion. what are the metrics for how well the volunteer army has done or is doing or might do? >> i think you've got to look at
mental health and related disturbances before you can say they got away with it or something like that. sorry. before i came back, and by the way that conversation the last year but when i came back in 72 , on one of them they told us to possibly use baseball caps, so the hair was a dead giveaway if you were in service.
the hair issue, [ laughter ] tomorrow i would get a haircut and a shave. -- a gas mask. i've been in that situation where you can do what you have to do but as part of the volunteer force, i was called. they couldn't take me because i had already enlisted. i got back from a way from vietnam. had short term there and saw a lot of these things going on.
when you talk about the morale of the troops, the thing that became quite clear to me i can't say we-- i can't say i. we felt, i was confident and aware of the political and social unrest going on. the thing about it is with all of the political turmoil and all the-- unrest, it was hard to feel like our country had our back. are commanders, brothers in arms
, we go to the end of the world for them. to and back . the idea of coming back to the states is terrifying. >> the morale was regulated and dig jaded by the actions of the government and our support. today i'm proud to say that americans do a better job of supporting our troops. that's all i got. >> because of men like you--
some things that happen to us. you-- for years to make things happen. we have time for one final question. >> sounds to me like going back to what we were talking about earlier with nixon, nixon in a lot of ways when we talk about the nixon doctrine and the immunization, started a policy that eisenhower had, i would say originated, had left other countries. eisenhower was okay with air and naval power but in a sense the document was resurrecting this idea that we
would rely on other armed forces. in that case that reduces the burden because nixon in his own way consents to the cold war mentality. they were ready for this dare i say return to normalcy. the draft army probably wasn't there anymore given the heritage of this country. >> any final response? >> there are some refreshments in the back, some cold caffeine to replace the word caffeine. [ laughter ] we will take a 15 minute break and come back and have our keynote address.