The US "war tsar" has called for the nation's political leaders to consider bringing back the draft to help a military exhausted by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a radio interview, Lieutenant General Douglas Lute said the option had always been open to boost the all-volunteer army by drafting in young men as happened in the Vietnam war.
"It makes sense to consider it."
Lute was appointed "war tsar" this year after President George W. Bush decided a single figure was needed to oversee military efforts abroad.
Rumours of a return to the draft have long circulated as the pressure from fighting two large conflicts builds on US forces. Politically it would be extremely difficult to achieve, especially for any leader hoping to be elected in 2008. Bush has previously ruled out the suggestion as unnecessary.
Lute, however, said the war was causing stress to families and affected levels of re-enlistment.
"This kind of stress plays out across dinner tables and in living-room conversations within these families. And ultimately the health of the all-volunteer force is going to rest on those sorts of personal family decisions."
A draft would revive bad memories of the 1960s and early 1970s when tens of thousands of young men were drafted to fight and die in Vietnam. Few policies proved as divisive.