A New Course for the Military

During the early summer I ventured out to Europe, mainly Switzerland and Austria. As I learned more about their culture I was shocked to hear that they have a conscripted Military. Shocked as in astonished that they are neutral countries but every able male are mandated to do service, civil or military. I also learned about their university system as well, but that's for another discussion.

The reason I ventured out was because I was feeling down and stressed about college. I was turned down by USNA, USMA, and an NROTC scholarship. I was on the verge of enlisting altogether. My cousins from Europe saw this and asked me to go there to learn about their culture, so I did. Two of them served, one in the civil service for the police and the other in the military. What I learned over there was very intriguing and made me question if the United States should do something similar. They served because they had to; I would like to share my experience with college students, so I am sticking with a college programmer path via VTCC.

So, I ask you all (veterans, current service men and women, and/or future officers) if the US should have a mandatory service , not just with military but with civil as well? My European cousins and friends said that it benefited them because they still got paid while in and was able to save for college.
 

usafa2022

Member
I'm not an expert on this kind of stuff by any means, but policies that work for other countries don't always work as well in the US because it is such a unique nation. A conscript army might be great for smaller states who couldn't otherwise raise a big enough defense force, but we don't have that problem in America.

From a strategic standpoint, I don't think simply having more troops would make us more prepared for conflict. Our military is extremely well equipped and well trained--the best in the world-- and the US has the technological upper hand against practically anyone else. We don't need sheer numbers the way less advanced forces do. Even if the other superpowers, China and Russia, have more men than we do, that doesn't necessarily mean they're better defended. America needs highly competent and capable troops, not just bodies.

Also, I can't help but think that conscription would completely change the culture in the US services. I'm not in the military yet, but every serviceman I've met, current or prior, takes immense pride in what he or she does. Conscripts likely would not have the same attitude. It seems likely that the professional culture that the military maintains would diminish or vanish completely if the enlisted ranks were filled with people who were only there to fulfill their obligation.

Another reason conscription might not work is that it simply isn't in line with American values. The US government was never meant to play an active role in citizens' lives, and mandatory service would undermine that. Forcing Americans into the military is completely against the entire concept of limited government. Overall, I would say we're better off with what we have. Volunteers will always make the best professionals, and professionals will always make the best American troops.
 
I'm not an expert on this kind of stuff by any means, but policies that work for other countries don't always work as well in the US because it is such a unique nation. A conscript army might be great for smaller states who couldn't otherwise raise a big enough defense force, but we don't have that problem in America.

From a strategic standpoint, I don't think simply having more troops would make us more prepared for conflict. Our military is extremely well equipped and well trained--the best in the world-- and the US has the technological upper hand against practically anyone else. We don't need sheer numbers the way less advanced forces do. Even if the other superpowers, China and Russia, have more men than we do, that doesn't necessarily mean they're better defended. America needs highly competent and capable troops, not just bodies.

Also, I can't help but think that conscription would completely change the culture in the US services. I'm not in the military yet, but every serviceman I've met, current or prior, takes immense pride in what he or she does. Conscripts likely would not have the same attitude. It seems likely that the professional culture that the military maintains would diminish or vanish completely if the enlisted ranks were filled with people who were only there to fulfill their obligation.

Another reason conscription might not work is that it simply isn't in line with American values. The US government was never meant to play an active role in citizens' lives, and mandatory service would undermine that. Forcing Americans into the military is completely against the entire concept of limited government. Overall, I would say we're better off with what we have. Volunteers will always make the best professionals, and professionals will always make the best American troops.
I see and understand your opinion. I do not intend for this thread to mean that conscription is the way to go. This is to inform what the world is like. The reason I brought this up was becuse of the professionalism the military service offers. I thought that it would offer Americans, as a whole, a professional character than today.

I hope to see countries and cooperate together militarily to defend against a great threat. How about civil services? Would that be a good service to be obligated to do as an American citizen?
 

Jcleppe

5-Year Member
It seems likely that the professional culture that the military maintains would diminish or vanish completely if the enlisted ranks were filled with people who were only there to fulfill their obligation.
Once you enter military service you will find that there are a vast number that join with the intention of just fulfilling their obligation. Not saying that it's a bad thing, just that the military is not always as professional as you might think.
 

Jcleppe

5-Year Member
Conscription at first glance sounds like a good idea here, I myself have said often that it would be good if everyone had to do 2 years service, be it military or civilian. While conscription would allow for many well qualified citizens to serve that would have otherwise chose not to, sounds great. There is a reason that standards are lowered and waivers are easier to get during times when the country is fighting a war, you don't always get the professionals you're hoping for. That being said, reality tends to get in the way.

With a country the size of the US and considering what this country pays for it's military budget each year, imagine what that budget would be if everyone in this country were obligated to serve. While it sounds like a great idea on the surface, the costs alone would be prohibitive.

As the poster said above, these countries you visited have a much smaller population. Even then the costs of the conscription plus the medical and college tuition, are reflected in the tax rate the citizens of these countries pay. Everyone always say how nice it is that they have free college and health care, look at the taxes they pay, it's not as free as you might think it is. Conscription in this country would result it a new tax level just to pay for that alone.

Still sounds nice, if only it were practical.
 
Conscription at first glance sounds like a good idea here, I myself have said often that it would be good if everyone had to do 2 years service, be it military or civilian. While conscription would allow for many well qualified citizens to serve that would have otherwise chose not to, sounds great. There is a reason that standards are lowered and waivers are easier to get during times when the country is fighting a war, you don't always get the professionals you're hoping for. That being said, reality tends to get in the way.

With a country the size of the US and considering what this country pays for it's military budget each year, imagine what that budget would be if everyone in this country were obligated to serve. While it sounds like a great idea on the surface, the costs alone would be prohibitive.

As the poster said above, these countries you visited have a much smaller population. Even then the costs of the conscription plus the medical and college tuition, are reflected in the tax rate the citizens of these countries pay. Everyone always say how nice it is that they have free college and health care, look at the taxes they pay, it's not as free as you might think it is. Conscription in this country would result it a new tax level just to pay for that alone.

Still sounds nice, if only it were practical.
I, by no means, am blind to the reason why they have free college. For all four years, might I add. I remember that my Austrian Uncle and mom had a discussion about the taxes paid. She and I were shocked about the amount he had to give. However, it does benefit the people as I saw.

I understand that conscription and free education equals higher taxes. But wouldn't you pay a little more to see a benefit in society? Please do not take this the wrong way, I just like to get other people's critical opinion, especially those already in the service.
 

Pima

10-Year Member
I always hear people say the free education and health care aspect. I lived in the UK for 3 yrs (2 of them on the economy). I giggle when people say would you pay higher taxes? No, I wouldn't! Why? Because anyone in the UK with enough money fly to other countries to have medical procedures done, be it for the reason our country is the best, or the fact that the wait time to be seen is soooooo long that it is the only way to get the procedure done faster.
~ It is a long story, and will not get into it, but I can tell you that when I was 3 mos pregnant, it took them 4 hours to stitch my cranium (9 stitches). Meanwhile they spent that time refilling prescriptions, etc. It is a 1st come 1st serve for ER.
~ College in the UK is not like ours here. In HS you take an exam like our SAT/ACT, depending on how you score off those tests, is a make or break. Score low and you cannot even apply for college, unlike here.

Now knowing those two things would you pay higher taxes?

Additionally, something you have not thought about when you posed this question is: Currently the largest generation is the Baby Boomers, followed by the X generation, which many of us are here. We make more money than Gen Y or the millenials, thus pay more taxes. However, at the same time, most of us have grown children. I am 52 and have 0 kids in college, but as a resident of VA, my real estate taxes pay for my county schools, my state colleges (VT, UVA, VCU, GMU, Community Colleges, etc). I get no bennie, except to pay lower taxes than Europe.

Finally, the problem with the cost of college IMPHO is the consumer.
1. You (parent or child or both) want all of the bells and whistles and are willing to go in debt for it.
~ My generation we did not have sun pools, rock climbing walls, etc. Meal plans was just a step above HS cafeteria.
2. The degree mattered the most back 30 years ago compared to now. IOWS, I believe the consumer is buying their degree just to say they are going to a 4 yr college.
~ Some of these degrees now make me go HUH??? You are actually paying for some BS (and that is short for a curse word, not Bachelor of Science), and 4 yrs later you are ticked that you have 50, 60, 70K in college loans but can't find a job.
3. Nobody screams at these schools while going in debt regarding their endowments.
~ Use wikepedia, some of these colleges have BILLIONS in their endowment, and still charge 50K a yr. I can't recall whether it was Harvard or Yale, but there was a documentary and the fact is that just on the interest they made in a yr, they could have charged $0 to every undergrad and grad student for their ENTIRE college experience.
~~ Until people stop allowing colleges to increase tuition by 5X the amount of the annual cost of living increase, colleges will get away with it. In the 4 yrs my kids were in school, all of them went up at least 10% annually. DS started and the tuition was 28K, 4 yrs later it was 43K.
 
I guess with our system, cost of attending a university will increase a lot more than our European counter parts. Then again, we have a lot to spend on, like athletics, housing, courses, labs, etc.

I do appreciate all of your input, it seems that no matter what different countries and different rules. It looks like militarily it would not result well, but would you agree that there should be some type of civil service for citizenship status?
 

Jcleppe

5-Year Member
I, by no means, am blind to the reason why they have free college. For all four years, might I add.
The young person does get college, yes all four years, for free, they don't make enough to pay any real taxes before and during school. Now once they graduate and start work, they start paying those higher taxes for the rest of their working life. As my Austrian friend told me, nothing is really free.

But wouldn't you pay a little more to see a benefit in society?
It would be far far more then just a little more.
 
I always hear people say the free education and health care aspect. I lived in the UK for 3 yrs (2 of them on the economy).
~~ Until people stop allowing colleges to increase tuition by 5X the amount of the annual cost of living increase, colleges will get away with it. In the 4 yrs my kids were in school, all of them went up at least 10% annually. DS started and the tuition was 28K, 4 yrs later it was 43K.
Holy crap - where did your kid go to college? That's over 50% increase in 4 years! I'd be screaming too. Especially since the national average is far less. Per the College Board, the 5 year total increase in tuition was a lot less than your son's school:
"Between 2011-12 and 2016-17, published tuition and fee prices rose by 9% in the public four-year sector, by 11% at public two-year colleges, and by 13% at private nonprofit four-year institutions, after adjusting for inflation."
As for public service, I would be in favor - some form of service to either the military or community. We lived in Germany for 4 years and our neighbors thought their requirement was a good idea. Requiring this might be helpful in the US to get more interaction between socio-economic classes and have people better understand each other. It might also make for better politicians.
About endowments, they are a tricky thing. They look so attractive, and the thought of using them to fully fund tuitions seems too plausible. But there are limitations. First, they go to many things beyond tuition and financial aid: upkeep, new facilities, research, distinguished faculty, free tickets to students for preview weekends, extra-curriculars, free passes on the local mass transit, student trips, etc. Then, many of the donations have restrictions (only for merit scholarships, for the arts, etc.). And endowments have to managed so that they last through market downturns, future major expenditures for upkeep and replacement, the ups and downs of donations. Many are limited to a 5% payout each year for this reason.
I completely agree that more aid could be given but many schools are very generous through their endowments. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and MIT are well known to make tuition affordable for admitted students (even those making in the lower six figures). My daughter's financial aid package at MIT had us paying the same as we are with her Type 1 AFROTC scholarship. And we're a happy middle class family. (She's going ROTC by the way.)
With both kids we found many private colleges that offered enough merit aid to make the school the same as or less than in-state public colleges, all due to their built up endowment.
Jcleppe wrote: "Once you enter military service you will find that there are a vast number that join with the intention of just fulfilling their obligation. Not saying that it's a bad thing, just that the military is not always as professional as you might think."
That is so true. I teach at a state college near a major Army base and I see a lot of these vets. They do their time, then cash in for college. Nothing wrong with it - it's a means to an end. Officers do it too - from pilots going to the 6 figure airline salary, to non-pilots jumping ship to defense contractors, to docs getting med school paid for then going private.
 
it's a means to an end. Officers doit too - from pilots going to the 6 figure airline salary, to non-pilotsjumping ship to defensecontractors, to docs getting medschool paid for then going private.

I do believe that now-Adams everything is about money. No matter what--job, school, moving, even starting a family--every situation always leads to a conversation of affordability. Hopefully in the future everything works out, lower cost education and obligated service without higher taxes. But one can only hope.

This was a fun thread, I learned a lot more about the world from everyone, thank you. Hopefully everyone else can understand the world. I'm not studying political science, arts, or anything with citizenship in the world; I plan on studying civil engineering, but now engineering requires interacting with other parts of the world.
 

Day-Tripper

5-Year Member
I'm not an expert on this kind of stuff by any means, but policies that work for other countries don't always work as well in the US because it is such a unique nation. A conscript army might be great for smaller states who couldn't otherwise raise a big enough defense force, but we don't have that problem in America.

From a strategic standpoint, I don't think simply having more troops would make us more prepared for conflict. Our military is extremely well equipped and well trained--the best in the world-- and the US has the technological upper hand against practically anyone else. We don't need sheer numbers the way less advanced forces do. Even if the other superpowers, China and Russia, have more men than we do, that doesn't necessarily mean they're better defended. America needs highly competent and capable troops, not just bodies.

Also, I can't help but think that conscription would completely change the culture in the US services. I'm not in the military yet, but every serviceman I've met, current or prior, takes immense pride in what he or she does. Conscripts likely would not have the same attitude. It seems likely that the professional culture that the military maintains would diminish or vanish completely if the enlisted ranks were filled with people who were only there to fulfill their obligation.

Another reason conscription might not work is that it simply isn't in line with American values. The US government was never meant to play an active role in citizens' lives, and mandatory service would undermine that. Forcing Americans into the military is completely against the entire concept of limited government. Overall, I would say we're better off with what we have. Volunteers will always make the best professionals, and professionals will always make the best American troops.

From 1940 to 1973 conscription was the law of the land in the US. It would have lasted longer except for the trauma of Vietnam. And the misplaced policies of that era (i.e. draft deferments to college students).

That era wasn't so bad, in my opinion. As Pat Buchanan once wrote, if you bumped into an adult American male in 1975 there was a 60% chance that he was a veteran. Today it's more like 2%. The US Congress (and presidency) of the 1950-1990s was almost entirely made up of veterans. Not a bad era, if you ask me.

America fought and on two world wars with a military which was overwhelmingly made up of draftees (70% of ww2 - the "Greatest Generation") . In the Korean War most stoops were drafted, too, and that war's conclusion looks better and better as time goes by. Vietnam was a defeat, to be sure, but not on the battlefield where a majority of American servicemen were conscripts.

If the US had relied on "pro-limited government" professional soldiers to fight the 2nd World War then I would be typing this post in Japanese.

If the US had no draft in the Civil War the South would have won. Unless, of course, the Confederacy hadn't used conscription either.

Since Napoleon's levee-en-masse in the 1790s, first Western and then global armies relied upon the draft to serve in their nation's armies, for better or worse. Name me a nation that won a war without a draft? (OK, US & allies in Iraq in 1991, but that was an exception.)

And we need more troops in the 21st century.

The US of 1980 had a population of 200 million and an active duty Army of 800,000+. In 2017 the US has a population of 325 million and an active duty Army of 450,000+. Insufficient. Ask the veterans who served 5 or 6 tours of duty in Iraq/Afghanistan if additional troops levels would have made their lives easier.

And, frankly, would politicians and populations be more-or-less likely to support going to war if there was a draft. The idea of a professional military & the "Thanks for your service"-culture is a cop out.

In colonial Jamestown & Plymouth all citizens were expected to serve. Why not now?

Personally, I'd prefer a limited draft, extended to 18-22 year old males, to boost US Army levels to 900,000 active duty. This would promote (as during Korea-Vietnam era) a back-door draft of volunteers into the Navy & Air Force. The Marine Corps will always have enough 17-18 year old volunteers however.
 

Pima

10-Year Member
from pilots going to the 6 figure airline salary,
Eventually they will make 6 figures, but that takes years, about 5 years, or when they move to the left seat. People always think that pilots make a fortunate right off the bat, but that is a fallacy. It is also why some will take the pilot bonus and stay until 20 so they can have the retirement pay and not feel the financial burden.

Holy crap - where did your kid go to college? That's over 50% increase in 4 years!
. One went out of state to UMDCP. University of MD actually got public backlash because one year during mid year they upped the tuition for spring by 7%, that was after they had upped it for the fall.
Our second DS went to George Mason IS, he went for 3 years (did CC for the 1st 2). Started in 2014, and the cost was 18K, this yr for IS it 27K. If your child is OOS it is now 48K.
Our DD went to VT, again, IS for us. It went from under 12K to over 18K in 4 years. She graduated in 15. VT is now at 22K or 31K for OOS. They were pleased to announce that this year they only increased by 3%, the lowest increase since 2001-02.

I still wonder why I ever filled out FAFSA because even when I had at least 2 in college, we were told we made too much. Yes, we make over 6 figures, but when you are being hit with monthly payments equivalent to a mtg., you have to say HUH? Or you can be like us and not buy a new car or go on any expensive vacation for years or almost a decade (DS1 started in 08 and youngest just graduated this past May)
~ All of these colleges had payment plans, but you had to pay the entire balance over 8 months....figure that out, even the cheapest (VT) you are paying @2700 a month if you get no FA.

OBTW our kids did have merit scholarships. Our DD actually got her Master for free (was a fellow), but in her program they only had 2 fellows and about 40 students, so odds are not good. Her significant other got NO financial aid, he now has about 75K in student loans, between undergrad and grad.. Both of them are teachers. People wonder why there is shortage of teachers, well there it is, hard to rationalize that amount of debt and the low amount of money you will earn unless you love the profession.
~ I do like what NJ did about 10 years ago, not sure if they still have the program. If you agreed to teach for 4 years, they would pay your entire education at any state college. Kind of like ROTC.
 

USMCGrunt

5-Year Member
The OP cites mandatory national or military service in other countries. Conscription in the United States has been conducted as a draft to augment the military shortfall of volunteers and is not the same thing.
 

Pima

10-Year Member
About endowments, they are a tricky thing. They look so attractive, and the thought of using them to fully fund tuitions seems too plausible. But there are limitations. First, they go to many things beyond tuition and financial aid: upkeep, new facilities, research, distinguished faculty, free tickets to students for preview weekends, extra-curriculars, free passes on the local mass transit, student trips, etc. Then, many of the donations have restrictions (only for merit scholarships, for the arts, etc.). And endowments have to managed so that they last through market downturns, future major expenditures for upkeep and replacement, the ups and downs of donations. Many are limited to a 5% payout each year for this reason.
I do not disagree, but again I think it also goes back to the fact that as consumers we created the devil. I believe it was on 60 Minutes, but they did a segment regarding the cost of attending college. The administration at AZ State flat out said the reason they had things like floating sun pools and 24/7 dining was because to be competitive they had to have them. Gone are the days of my generation where we had communal showers, and now replaced with suites or aptmt style living. Why? because Johnnie or Janie are impressed more with the bells and whistles no matter what the cost. Afterall, as a senior in HS you are not thinking about the amount of debt 5 years from now, all you are thinking about is how pretty the campus looks.

The other reason we created this issue is back in my day, I am 52, you did not apply to 10 + colleges. You applied to maybe 5. You did not take your SAT as often as you could afford to pay. For my generation there was no superscore. A perfect score was WOW and everybody in my school knew about it, my graduating class was 863 students, note my class size, not the school size. Reason why was due to the fact it was best sitting, like AFROTC still does. If you took it for the 3rd time, you could actually get dinged...they would avg all 3, thus it was not to your advantage.

In the college level regarding professors it is also laughable. Any Prof at a good college will tell you it is Publish or Perish. In turn they publish the book every student in their class will be required to purchase and make money off the royalties. Additionally, at large colleges, and depending on their field many have TAs that teach for them. IE Freshmen Psychology can have the Prof teach the 200 size class 1x a week, and when it breaks down to the smaller groups the other day it is the TA. The profs office hours were maybe 10 a week.
~ Bullet's aunt and uncle taught at an elite college and lived a very comfortable life, not because of how much they made as profs, but how much they made on their books that students had to purchase.

I also understand downturns in the market, but just like you and me and Joe Schmoe, if you invest in the market, from a long term perspective (20 yrs) the Dow will avg about a 12% ROI. Even if we did for mathematical purposes a 3% increase they are still making money.

Honestly, if you want to know my real pet peeve regarding the cost of college it is their gall to charge me $$$ for their cap/gown and diploma! Seriously after paying 6 figures over 4 years you couldn't find the money to give us the diploma for free? That pet peeve is only rivaled by the fact that within a week or two of them graduating we start getting the phone calls from the alumni association to donate money!
 
Yes, we make over 6 figures, but when you are being hit with monthly payments equivalent to a mtg., you have to say HUH? Or you can be like us and not buy a new car or go on any expensive vacation for years or almost a decade (DS1 started in 08 and youngest just graduated this past May)
Gee, as a son of a single mother, I hope you are planning that good vacation. My mom is looking like that for now, and I don't want for her to suffer just so I can enjoy life.


The administration at AZ State flat out said the reason they had things like floating sun pools and 24/7 dining was because to be competitive they had to have them. Gone are the days of my generation where we had communal showers, and now replaced with suites or aptmt style living. Why? because Johnnie or Janie are impressed more with the bells and whistles no matter what the cost. Afterall, as a senior in HS you are not thinking about the amount of debt 5 years from now, all you are thinking about is how pretty the campus looks.
I think I remember seeing that quite a while ago. I thought it was a joke because it was too ridiculous. I mean I wouldn't mind getting rid of the sports, clubs, and dorms sponsored by the schools and getting an apartment and participating in EC's outside of classes and focus on studies at the school. But it's my opinion maybe I was not meant for the American university life.
 
The OP cites mandatory national or military service in other countries. Conscription in the United States has been conducted as a draft to augment the military shortfall of volunteers and is not the same thing.
After talking to friends and my old history professor, there was a program from either WWI or II that offered mandatory service to able-bodied males to fix bridges, national parks, or build national projects for free housing, and decent pay. I think that sparked my interest, I forgot exactly why they stopped, maybe too much spending? Either way I do not think we will see that program until, like others said, as a last resort.
 

Capt MJ

10-Year Member
After talking to friends and my old history professor, there was a program from either WWI or II that offered mandatory service to able-bodied males to fix bridges, national parks, or build national projects for free housing, and decent pay. I think that sparked my interest, I forgot exactly why they stopped, maybe too much spending? Either way I do not think we will see that program until, like others said, as a last resort.
http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/fdr-creates-the-wpa

This was a well-known one, during the Depression with a capital D. My mother was a child during that time, and in her later life, would never touch pancakes or French toast, because during those years she and her brothers and sisters often ate that for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Her brothers bartered handyman chores for eggs, milk, flour and bread.
 
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AF6872

10-Year Member
I think that was the WPA and he must be very old. My father hated liver until the day he died because it was the only meat they could afford with eleven children in the house.
 

raimius

10-Year Member
Universal service would likely have some civic benefits, but a conscripted military (other than during national crisis) tends to lead to problems for the military. I wouldn't want to be working with enlistees who never wanted to be in the military, if the military didn't desperately need people.

Infrastructure and public places were incredibly aided by things like the CCC and WPA. Though, nowadays, I fear that even if we did something like that, politicians would just let the debt rise. Easier to go into debt than face an electorate that you just raised taxes on.
 
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