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Historical Analysis of the Military Draft Policy

The Constitution adopted in 1789 gave Congress the “power to raise and support armies,” but it neither mentioned nor prohibited conscription. The Framers left that issue to the future, although most of them believed that the United States like Britain would enlist its men rather than conscript them, and would pay for its armies through the power to tax. Not until World War I did the United States rely primarily upon conscription.

The Selective Service Act of 1917 was adopted in large part because a civilian-led “preparedness” movement had persuaded many Americans that a selective national draft was the most equitable and efficient way for an industrial society to raise a wartime army. Woodrow Wilson overcame considerable opposition, particularly from agrarian isolationists in the South and West and ethnic and ideological opponents of the war in the North, to obtain the temporary wartime draft. (Berger 1981) For more than 50 years, Selective Service and the registration requirement for America’s young men have served as a backup system to provide manpower to the U.

S. Armed Forces. President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 which created the country’s first peacetime draft and formally established the Selective Service System as an independent Federal agency. From 1948 until 1973, during both peacetime and periods of conflict, men were drafted to fill vacancies in the armed forces which could not be filled through voluntary means. (Gerhardt 1971) A lottery drawing – the first since 1942 – was held on December 1, 1969, at Selective Service National Headquarters in Washington, D. C. This event determined the order of call for induction during calendar year 1970, that is, for registrants born between January 1, 1944 and December 31, 1950. Reinstitution of the lottery was a change from the oldest first method, which had been the determining method for deciding order of call. 366 blue plastic capsules containing birth dates were placed in a large glass jar and drawn by hand to assign order-of-call numbers to all men within the 18-26 age range specified in Selective Service law.

With radio, film and TV coverage, the capsules were drawn from the jar, opened, and the dates inside posted in order. The first capsule – drawn by Congressman Alexander Pirine (R-NY) of the House Armed Services Committee – contained the date September 14, so all men born on September 14 in any year between 1944 and 1950 were assigned lottery number 1. The drawing continued until all days of the year had been matched to lottery numbers. (Berger 1981) In 1973, the draft ended and the U. S. converted to an All-Volunteer military.

The registration requirement was suspended in April 1975. It was resumed again in 1980 by President Carter in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Registration continues today as a hedge against underestimating the number of servicemen needed in a future crisis. (Berger 1981) Draft Procedure and Policy When a crisis occurs which requires more troops than the volunteer military can supply, Congress passes and the President signs legislation which starts a draft. It should be noted that the President cannot initiate a draft on his own.

Congress would first have to pass legislation (both the House and Senate), and the President would have to sign the bill into law. A lottery based on birthdays determines the order in which registered men are called up by Selective Service. The first to be called, in a sequence determined by the lottery, will be men whose 20th birthday falls during that year, followed, if needed, by those aged 21, 22, 23, 24 and 25. The Agency activates and orders its State Directors and Reserve Forces Officers to report for duty.

Registrants with low lottery numbers are ordered to report for a physical, mental, and moral evaluation at a Military Entrance Processing Station to determine whether they are fit for military service. Once he is notified of the results of the evaluation, a registrant will be given 10 days to file a claim for exemption, postponement, or deferment. It is possible that Congress could decide to lessen the standards during a draft. However, Congress would have to do so by either including the changed standards in the draft legislation, or by separate legislative action. Local and Appeal Boards will process registrant claims.

Those who pass the military evaluation will receive induction orders. An inductee will have 10 days to report to a local Military Entrance Processing Station for induction. According to current plans, Selective Service must deliver the first inductees to the military within 193 days from the effective date of draft legislation. (Flynn 2002) Registration While a draft is not likely, registration for the draft (for males) is a reality. Almost all male U. S. citizens, and male aliens living in the U. S. , who are 18 through 25, are required to register with Selective Service.

The maximum penalty for failing to register with Selective Service is a $250,000 fine and up to five years in prison. Failure to register will cause ineligibility for a number of federal and state benefits including: FEDERAL JOBS A man must be registered to be eligible for jobs in the Executive Branch of the Federal government and the U. S. Postal Service. This applies only to men born after December 31, 1959. STUDENT FINANCIAL AID Men who are not registered with Selective Service cannot obtain Federal student loans or grants.

This includes Pell Grants, College Work Study, Guaranteed Student/Plus Loans, and National Direct Student Loans. The U. S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) makes registration with Selective Service a condition for U. S. citizenship, if the man first arrived in the U. S. before his 26th birthday and was required to register.  The Workforce Investment Act (formerly JTPA) offers important job-training opportunities. This program is only open to those men who register with Selective Service.

Most states have added additional penalties for those who fail to register with Selective Service.  As of May 16, 2002, 19 states, 2 territories, and the District of Columbia have enacted driver’s license laws supporting Selective Service registration. They are Oklahoma, Delaware, Arkansas, Utah, Georgia, Hawaii, Alabama, Florida, Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, Illinois, Ohio, South Dakota, Mississippi, Idaho, Virginia, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands.

The Draft: Post Vietnam War If a draft were held today, it would be dramatically different from the one held during the Vietnam War. A series of reforms during the latter part of the Vietnam conflict changed the way the draft operated to make it more fair and equitable. If a draft were held today, there would be fewer reasons to excuse a man from service. Before Congress made improvements to the draft in 1971, a man could qualify for a student deferment if he could show he was a full-time student making satisfactory progress toward a degree.

Under the current draft law, a college student can have his induction postponed only until the end of the current semester. A senior can be postponed until the end of the academic year. If a draft were held today, local boards would better represent the communities they serve. The changes in the new draft law made in 1971 included the provision that membership on the boards was required to be as representative as possible of the racial and national origin of registrants in the area served by the board.

A draft held today would use a lottery to determine the order of call. Before the lottery was implemented in the latter part of the Vietnam conflict, Local Boards called men classified 1-A, 18 1/2 through 25 years old, oldest first. This resulted in uncertainty for the potential draftees during the entire time they were within the draft-eligible age group. A draft held today would use a lottery system under which a man would spend only one year in first priority for the draft – either the calendar year he turned 20 or the year his deferment ended.

Each year after that, he would be placed in a succeedingly lower priority group and his liability for the draft would lessen accordingly. In this way, he would be spared the uncertainty of waiting until his 26th birthday to be certain he would not be drafted. (Flynn 2002) Opposition Opposition mounted along with the rising draft calls and casualty rates. Supported by an antiwar coalition of students, pacifists, clergy, civil rights and feminist organizations, and many other liberal and radical groups, a draft resistance movement grew in strength.

It generated demonstrations, draft-card burnings, sit-ins at induction centers, and break-ins and destruction of records at a dozen local draft boards. Between 1965 and 1975, faced with well over 100,000 apparent draft offenders, the federal government indicted 22,500 persons, of whom 8,800 were convicted and 4,000 imprisoned. As the Supreme Court expanded the criteria from religious to moral or ethical objections, exemptions grew in relation to actual inductions from 8 percent in 1967 to 43 percent in 1971 and 131 percent in 1972.

Between 1965 and 1970, 170,000 registrants were classified as COs. The most common form of draft “protest” was evasion. Of the 26. 8 million young men who reached draft age between 1964 and 1973, 16 million (60 percent) did not serve in the military. Of those who avoided service, 15. 4 million received legal exemptions or deferments, and perhaps 570,000 evaded the draft illegally. Among illegal draft evaders 360,000 were never caught, another 198,000 had their cases dismissed, 9,000 were convicted, and 4,000 sent to prison.

In addition, an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 fled into exile, mainly to Canada, Britain, and Sweden. With the draft so controversial, Congress came under increased pressure either to reform it or to eliminate it. Supported by many conservatives, Gen. Lewis B. Hershey, the director of Selective Service since 1941, blocked any changes until 1969, including the 1967 recommendations for equity and national uniformity from a presidential commission headed by former assistant attorney general Burke Marshall.

President Richard M. Nixon, after criticizing the draft in his 1968 campaign, ended new occupational and dependency deferments, instituted an annual draft lottery among eighteen-year-olds (beginning in December 1969), removed General Hershey, and appointed a commission, headed by former secretary of defense Thomas Gates, which in 1970 recommended an All-Volunteer Armed Force with a stand-by draft for emergency use. (Flynn 2002) Policy Conclusion

The policy of the draft has been implemented and changed for some time, now spanning over close to a hundred years. It’s irony is that it has acted almost as a safety net for the military but scares all those who may become involved. Policy surrounding the issue has been and will be debated for years to come and with the new “war on terrorism” its not unlikely that the military will grow thin and the draft will be used. Certain types of public policy divide our nation in many ways and one issue that divides us is the draft.

With President Bush’s new preempitive action approach to fighting the war on terror, a good bit of the military will continue to be stretched thin as the United States continues to engage in contact on many fronts. It is already certain that our military will not leave Iraq until a stable democracy is intact and if other actions are taken against countries such as North Korea and Iran as communication failure continues to break down, we will find U. S. litary sources stationed in those countries as well until they too have reached a level of stablility that is consistent with how the United States government would approve. And although our commitment to these current day conflicts has not reached a status where a draft would be needed, talk has begun to stir and its reinstatement could come in the near future. Good or bad, each individual has its own opinion and its policy will be debated for years to come.

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