Veteran administration took on strategic importance under the plan to trim the armed forces from 4 million soldiers to 3 million from 1985. A new conscription law beginning in 1984 gave legal effect to recruitment practices adopted since 1978. The PLA has ceased to be an army of volunteers. Instead conscripts make up its main strength; these are supplemented by a professional core of servicemen who volunteered to prolong their service. Much as the draft gave the state greater certainty over enlistment, the morale of combatants could be adversely affected if their families could not get adequate compensation. For this reason, reforms in preferential aid assumed added political meaning.