Trump World Reportedly Flirts With a Return to Mandatory Military Service

Trump, alleged draft-dodger, arriving at a US base in Tokyo during his first trip to Japan in 2017.The Yomiuri Shimbun/AP

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Despite Trump’s alleged draft-dodging in his youth, the former president’s acolytes are reportedly flirting with a return to requiring mandatory military service if he’s re-elected.

Christopher Miller, former acting defense secretary during the last two months of Trump’s term—and, possibly, the next leader of the Pentagon—told the Washington Post this week that it should be “strongly considered,” calling it a “rite of passage” that would create a sense of “shared sacrifice” among young people.

“It reinforces the bonds of civility,” Miller reportedly said, adding, “why wouldn’t we give that a try?”

This is not the first time Miller has floated these plans: He also wrote about them for Project 2025, the blueprint for Trump 2.0, concocted by dozens of conservative groups and led by the Heritage Foundation. There, Miller floated making all public school students complete the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery—a standardized test developed by the Department of Defense to test young people’s skills to match them with a military job—in order to “improve military recruiters’ access to secondary schools.” (A spokesperson for the Heritage Foundation told the Washington Post that Project 2025 does not “speak for President Trump or his campaign, who alone set his agenda.”)

Miller told the Washington Post that the test could be used to shore up weaknesses in the military: “If we’re going to prepare for a great-power competition, it’s helpful to have a baseline understanding of the pool of potential military service members and their specific aptitudes prior,” he said.

Trump called the reporting “completely untrue” in a post on Truth Social. “In fact,” he wrote, “I never even thought of that idea.”

But many others in his orbit have: Rumored Trump vice presidential pick J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) told the Washington Post, “I like the idea of national service. And I’m not talking about in wartime.” And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told the paper he would “take no option off the table” to address shortages in the military.

The concept of bringing back mandatory service, though, is politically unpopular, especially among those it would actually affect. According to a 2017 Gallup poll, while nearly half (49 percent) of Americans overall support the idea of a draft, a majority of those under age 30 (57 percent) are against the idea.

And this may be why, dizzyingly, the right is trying to gaslight their base into believing it’s Democrats who want to reinstitute the draft. At this weekend’s Turning Point Action convention in Michigan—a gathering spot for far-right incendiaries—Donald Trump Jr. was among the speakers who told the crowd the left wants to bring back mandatory military service, as my colleague Stephanie Mencimer reported from the scene.

“Someone’s gotta fight these wars, and it’s not going to be the Democrats,” Don Trump Jr. said, without evidence, to boos from the crowd. “They want to draft young women now, and by the way, not for a war that’s popular… they want to draft our women for an unpopular war so they can get their board seats at Raytheon.”

Democrats are in a literal war against women, @donaldjtrumpjr says Democrats adding women to selective services programs are proof. #PEOPLES2024— Turning Point Action (@TPAction_) June 15, 2024

In actuality, it was Republicans who passed the House Defense bill on Friday, which included a provision automatically registering young men for selective service—essentially the database that would be used if a draft was authorized—rather than requiring them to manually do it and risk a possible federal felony charge if they do not, as is currently the case. In making his comments about women being forced to serve, the former president’s son appeared to have been referring to a Thursday vote by the Senate Armed Services committee to approve advancing the National Defense Authorization Act to the Senate floor with a provision that would require women to register for selective service. But… that’s very different from the folks in Trump World reportedly considering the possibility of forcing all young people to actually serve in the military. (We reached out to Donald Trump Jr. to ask which policy he was referring to, and we’ll update you if anything becomes clearer.)

But the Trump crew does not have a history of being loyal to evidence when it comes to the matter of mandatory military service. Need we remind you of the so-called bone spurs?