...Not soldiers, because we don't need to today anymore than we did when Ronald Reagan was fighting the Cold War. [Thanks to Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek]
...can we maintain an all-volunteer force or even expand it? The answer is that we've already done this. Today's military has about 1.43 million active-duty members and another 900,000 reserves. The smallest it has been in the last 54 years is 1.38 million, and that was in 1999, according to the Department of Defense. Today's military is small by historic standards, especially relative to U.S. population. As recently as 1990, according to the Defense Department, there were 2.04 million people on active duty. Though President H.W. Bush had planned to shrink this to 1.6 million by 1996, President Clinton took it further, shrinking it to the current 1.4 million. In other words, our military is relatively small because policy-makers in the preceding two administrations chose to make it small.
If necessary, the military can expand. Just as any business can expand its workforce voluntarily, so can the military. ....
David R. Henderson is a research fellow with the Hoover Institution and an economics professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. Economist Christopher Jehn, vice president for government programs at Cray Inc., was U.S. assistant secretary of defense for force management and personnel from 1989 to 1993.
Which raises the question of why the NY Times resident economist hasn't thought this through as well.