Sen. John F. Kerry's national security adviser said Wednesday that a resumption of the military draft is unlikely if Kerry becomes president, and that Kerry would take steps to forestall it, but he did not close the door on it.
Rand Beers, holding the title of national security coordinator, told this to political reporters when asked if Kerry would resort to a draft to solve a shortage of military personnel: "Clearly if we get to a situation that requires national mobilization, then John Kerry is going to be prepared to look at that issue and make that decision."
Campaign advisers said Kerry, in his acceptance speech tonight, will lay out his plan to strengthen overextended U.S. armed forces, reverse flagging recruitment in the National Guard and Reserves and widen the circle of American alliances.
In an effort to inoculate Kerry against Republican claims he is not a strong leader, the Democrats mobilized their forces to show the nation in the convention's final two days that Kerry "has passed the commander-in-chief test" by virtue of his Vietnam combat service as a decorated Navy officer, and his work on the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence Committees.
The campaign announced that 14 former top flag officers, including retired Gen. John Shalikashvili, onetime chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are endorsing Kerry. Shalikashvili, who served under former President Bill Clinton, addressed the convention Wednesday.
The group includes seven four-star and five three-star officers representing all four services, two former CIA directors, and two deputy national security advisers.
"This represents a recognition of Kerry's serious commitment to a strong national security, a strong miliary, and to a serious foreign policy," said Beers, a former White House anti-terrorism aide to President Bush until last year when he joined the Kerry campaign.
Beers and Jamie Rubin, State Department spokesman under Clinton, stressed that Kerry and Bush have similar foreign policy goals but that Kerry would be a "smarter, wiser" president who would draw more world support to these objectives.
"He will isolate the extremists instead of isolating ourselves," Rubin said.
Beers said Kerry would increase active duty forces by 40,000 worldwide. Pressure to deploy guard and reserve forces into combat areas would be lessened. Some 40,000 civil affairs troops and military police comprise many of the guard and reserve units cycled into Iraq.
The falloff in recruitment of regular and guard personnel, Beers said, would be stemmed by improving pay and benefits for service personnel and their families.
Although some Democratic members of Congress -- including two New York House members -- support a draft, the Bush administration has maintained it is not needed.
Kerry's national security team now includes Susan Rice, a former assistant secretary of state for foreign affairs. She attended Stanford with Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice and is acquainted with her, but the two are not related. She earned a master's degree and a doctorate at Oxford.