The Unied States of America is committed to the concept of an armed force which is based on volunteers filling its ranks. According to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the all-volunteer military is “worth the cost.” But, Admiral Mullen, who chairs the Joint Chifs of Staff, indicated the continuous increase in personnel costs “does not bode well for a military of this size.” Gates urged Congress to approve a “modest” increase in Tricare health care fees for woking age military retirees. Gates argues these individauls are in good health and are working so they should be able to absorb an increase in health cost which would result in freeing other money for military expenditures.
Senator Daneil Inouye pointed out that pay for active and reserve service members rose 32% and 47% respectively betwen 2000 and 2006 due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It now costs about $126,000 pr service member each year to provide pay, benefits and health care. ‘Is the cost of maintaining an all-volunteer force becoming unsustainable?” he asked. In responding to the question, Gates pointed out a volunteer army requires more attention to taking care of families whether the soldier is deployed or not. “There is no question it is expensive,” he said.
Admiral Mullen pinpointed the issue by raising the question as to whether the United States could afford the current sized armed force or would it have to reduce the size of the military at some future date. He suggested “I don’t see us as a country being able to afford the kind of cost increase at the rate they’ve occurred over the last sveral years.”
An important aspect of the Bush foreign policy is its impact on the concept of an all-volunteer armed force. Can the United States continue fighting all over the world without at some point introducing the concept of a draft?