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Rumsfeld says no need for draft

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration sees no need to reinstate the military draft, but it is pushing for improved Pentagon management of the force in order to meet wartime needs, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.

"I don't know anyone in the executive branch of the government who believes it would be appropriate or necessary to reinstitute the draft," Rumsfeld told the Newspaper Association of America's annual convention.

Some in Congress have questioned whether the long-term nature of the global war on terrorism might require a return to the system of military conscription that was abandoned in 1973.

Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, raised the possibility Wednesday that such a draft might be necessary.

"Should we continue to burden the middle class who represents most all of our soldiers, and the lower-middle class?" Hagel said. "Should we burden them with the fighting and the dying if in fact this is a generational -- probably 25-year -- war?"

Rumsfeld did not address the issue of burden-sharing, except to say the old system of conscription had "a lot of difficulties."

"We have a relatively small military. We have been very successful in recruiting and retaining the people we need," he said. The 1.4 million-strong military is working on ways to get more combat power out of the existing force, he said.

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