MARGARET WARNER: More than 135,000 U.S. Military personnel-- regular soldiers, National Guard and reservists-- are stationed in Iraq.
There's little sign their numbers will be shrinking soon. Most of the Army and Marines' combat divisions have already seen or will soon see duty in Iraq, some for the second time.
And the army has other obligations: 18,000 troops in Afghanistan; 30,000 in South Korea; and 3,000 in Bosnia and Kosovo. In the past few weeks, there have been signs of strain on military personnel.
The Defense Science Board, which advises Secretary Rumsfeld, has warned: the "current and projected force structure will not sustain our current and projected global stabilization commitments."
The Army National Guard failed to meet its most recent annual recruiting goal. And some individual ready reservists-- the latest of the reserve pool to be called to active duty-- have been slow to respond to their call ups.
Yet the administration's civilian and military leaders insist that the all-volunteer force is working well, and that there are no plans to re-institute a draft. That has not stopped a spate of Internet rumors that the draft, abolished in 1973, is about to be revived.
To prove that's not so, a bill calling for a new draft was rushed to the House floor earlier this month and overwhelmingly defeated on a 402-2 vote. The presidential candidates, in their second debate two weeks ago, also expressed opposition to a draft.
MAN IN AUDIENCE: Since we continue to police the world, how do you intend to maintain our military presence without re-instituting a draft?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah, great question. Thanks. I hear there's rumors on the Internets that we're going to have a draft.
We're not going to have a draft, period. The all-volunteer army works.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: I don't support a draft. But let me tell you where the president's policies have put us. You've got people doing two and three rotations.
You've got stop-loss policies so people can't get out when they were supposed to. You've got a backdoor draft right now.
MARGARET WARNER: But since then, Sen. Kerry has suggested that the Bush administration's policies could force a resumption of the draft. In an interview with the Des Moines Register last week, the senator said there is "a great potential" for a military draft in the United States if President Bush wins reelection. The president has taken Sen. Kerry to task for suggesting such a thing.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We will not have a draft; we'll keep the all-volunteer army. (Applause) With your help on Nov. 2, the people of America will reject the politics of fear, and vote for an agenda of hope and opportunity and security for all Americans.
MARGARET WARNER: There is one point of difference between the candidates: President Bush has instituted a temporary increase in army personnel, by some 30,000 but says it's only temporary. Sen. Kerry is calling for the army to be permanently expanded by 40,000 more soldiers.