Draft debate resurfaces following Sept. 11

Andrew Pritchard

To the current generation of University students, “draft” describes beer, a first crack at a term paper or what their favorite teams do every year.

“I haven’t really heard any student mention (a draft) or bring it up,” said Institute of Technology student Mark Ebert.

But since the United States ended compulsory military service 29 years ago, there have been several attempts to revive selective service. And in the months following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, another round of editorials and campaign speeches proposed reinstating the draft.

“I think it’s kind of becoming a hot issue on campus now,” said recent University history graduate Ryan Dwyer. “It seems like there’s a lot of students against the draft.”

Cmdr. Dave Hutton, executive officer of the University’s Naval ROTC, said there is no indication the draft will be reinstated anytime soon.

“I would say it’s highly unlikely,” Hutton said, adding that technology has made warfare less “manpower-intensive.”

Currently, all men are required to register with the Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthdays and keep the agency apprised of their addresses until they turn 26.

In 1999, the House Appropriations Committee approved a measure to abolish the agency and the registration requirement, but Congress did not approve the proposal.

Similar plans were defeated in 1993 and 1995.

Meanwhile, several key Republican lawmakers pushed in the other direction, advocating a return to compulsory service.

In Colorado, Republican congressional candidate Marilyn Musgrave told a community forum in August that a draft would be good for the military, although her campaign manager later told the Rocky Mountain News that Musgrave meant she would support a draft if President George W. Bush called for it.

Enforcement

selective Service public affairs spokeswoman Alyce Burton said the agency has not taken any extra steps to increase registration enforcement since the Sept. 11 attacks.

“We haven’t stepped up our efforts,” she said. “They’re still the same as they were before the attacks.”

Failure to register with Selective Service is punishable by up to five years in prison or a fine up to $250,000.

Men are also ineligible for federal student aid if they are not registered, and many federal jobs require draft registration as a condition of employment.

Nineteen states, including Wisconsin and South Dakota, have made selective service registration a condition of getting a state driver’s license.

The Selective Service Administration reported in 2000 that approximately 83 percent of eligible men had registered. That number rose in 2001 to 97 percent, the first increase since 1993, and then dipped to 96 percent in 2001.

Minnesota followed the national trend: 90 percent of draft-eligible Minnesotans registered in 1999, 95 percent in 2000 and 93 percent in 2001.

Vietnam system replaced

after the terrorist attacks, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said there was “not a chance” the nation would reinstate the draft.

Hutton said the military would rely first on reserves to fill any manpower shortage.

“That’s what the reserves are for,” he said.

Burton said a draft now would differ from the Vietnam War-era draft. Most significantly, she said, men enrolled in college when they were drafted would only be able to defer service until the end of the current semester.

“They could not defer indefinitely,” she said.

Vietnam-era draft rules allowed full-time students to defer as long as they made satisfactory academic progress.

A draft would require an act of Congress signed by the president, she said. Registered men would then be selected by lottery, beginning with men turning 20 in the year the draft was authorized.

According to the Selective Service System’s Web site, this Uniform National Call would preclude favoritism by local draft boards.

Additionally, drafting the youngest men first would allow men nearing the end of their draft eligibility to know they probably would not be drafted, according to the Web site.

The United States first instituted the draft in 1863, during the Civil War. It was reactivated in 1917 for World War I and again in 1940, the nation’s first peacetime draft.

A congressional attempt to abolish the draft one week before the Pearl Harbor attack was defeated by one vote.

The draft was in place continuously from 1948-73. The registration requirement expired in 1975, but was reinstated in 1980 after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Approximately 16 million men were drafted during the major wars of the 20th century.