Government Looking at Military Draft Lists
By Alma Walzer
It’s taken one year, seven months and 19 days of combat in Iraq for the Lone Star State to lose 100 of its own. Texas is the second state, after California, to lose 100 service members, according to the Associated Press.
With continuing war in Iraq and U.S. armed forces dispersed to so many other locations around the globe, Americans may be wondering if compulsory military service could begin again for the first time since the Vietnam War era.
The Selective Service System (SSS) and the U.S. Department of Education now are gearing up to compare their computer records, to make sure all men between the ages of 18 and 25 who are required to register for a military draft have done so. The SSS and the education department will begin comparing their lists on Jan. 1, 2005, according to a memo authored by Jack Martin, acting Selective Service director.
While similar record checks have been done periodically for the past 10 years, Martin’s memo is dated Oct. 28, just a few days before the Nov. 2 presidential election, a hard-fought campaign in which the question of whether the nation might need to reinstate a military draft was raised in debates and on the stump.
It took several more days, until Nov. 4, for the document to reach the Federal Register, the official daily publication for rules and notices of federal agencies and organizations.
The memo was also produced after the U.S. House voted 402-2 on Oct. 5, against House Resolution 163, a bill that would have required all young people, including women, to serve two years of military service. Under federal law, a military draft cannot be started without congressional support. About 94 percent of all men are properly registered for a draft, according to Richard Flahavan, associate director of the office of public and intergovernmental affairs for SSS. Martin’s memo is just a routine thing, Flahavan said.
“Back in 1982 a federal law was passed that basically linked federal grants, student loans and federal assistance to students with Selective Service,” Flahavan said. “You had to register with Selective Service with a Social Security number (in order to receive federal assistance), and as a consequence of the law the Department of Education came up with an agreement on how to exchange and compare data to comply with the law.
“It just so happens that the current agreement in effect expires next month,” Flahavan said. “All we did is update the agreement slightly, but it has no substantive changes. There is nothing new or shocking to link this to some type of draft right around the corner because its all been in place for almost 18 years.”
Flahavan said the written agreements between SSS and the Department of Education normally run for about four or five years and suggested that a reporter search the 1999 or 2000 records of the Federal Register for the most agreement.
A search of the Federal Register by The Monitor found four such agreements between the two agencies, with effective dates as follows: Jan. 1, 1995; July 1, 1997; Jan. 1, 2000; and July 1, 2002. All four agreements lasted for 18 months, during which time the SSS and the Department of Education could complete their comparisons. The most recent agreement, which began July 1, 2002, actually expired Jan. 1, 2004, according to federal records located by The Monitor.
“This has nothing to with current events,” Flahavan said. “This is just the periodic renewal of previous agreements—this one is 18 months but normally it runs four years and that’s why we’re doing it now. I’m not quite sure why it’s 18 months versus the normal number of years.”
Flahavan said the agency was required to place the agreement in the Federal Register. “That’s fine and we did,” Flahavan said. “We believe the public wouldn’t stand for a draft that isn’t fair and equitable. “And the only way to be fair and equitable is if everyone who should register is registered, because that’s the pool from which the people who would be drafted would be selected from. So you want everyone who should be in the pot in the pot,” Flahavan said.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, who officially begins representing western Hidalgo County residents in January, said Congress has voted on record against a draft. “It was a near unanimous vote in the House,” Doggett said. “When things are filed in the Federal Register, there will be standards, and they are a reminder that if we cannot get more international participation that the risk of a draft remains out there. “And I think we do need people to remain watchful of this possibility.”
—The Monitor (McAllan, Texas), November 15, 2004