Stories have been flying around the Internet warning us that
the machinery for a draft is being "oiled" and will
be used within a year. They include statements like the following:
"The Selective Service System has lain basically dormant
for decades and now in the 2004 budget, Bush has added $28 million
to get the whole thing ready to fly in 2005."
"The Pentagon has quietly begun a public campaign to fill
all 10,350 draft board positions and 11,070 appeals board slots
"$28 Million to get DRAFT READY BY JUNE 15, 2005!!"
"This website will provide absolute proof that Bush is making
plans to reinstate the draft by the middle of 2005."
COMD is receiving copies of these articles or alerts every week,
and we've spent a lot of time answering questions about whether
or not they are true. Unfortunately, much of the information in
them is inaccurate or untrue; and while there are reasons for
people to be concerned about the possibility of a future draft,
the current hysteria caused by these rumors is diverting attention
from other immediate issues that could, in fact, increase the
chances of a draft later if they aren't addressed more vigorously
One of the "proofs" cited for an impending draft is
the fact that a notice was posted on a federal Web site soliciting
volunteers to serve on draft boards. One writer for Salon.com
mentioned this in his article a few months ago, and it was soon
being repeated by other writers on the Net. Some stories have
quoted Ned Lebow, a Dartmouth College professor who once taught
at the National War College in Washington. Lebow has claimed,
"This is significant. . . . What the Department of Defense
is doing is creating the infrastructure to make the draft a viable
option should the administration wish to go this route."
According to one article, Lebow said it is the first public call
to reconstitute draft boards since the compulsory draft was abolished
But, in fact, the Selective Service System has been recruiting
and training draft board members since the early 1980s, when Congress
authorized funds to place SSS in a state of stand-by readiness.
Congress must still authorize inductions before a draft can begin,
but SSS has essentially been readying itself for the last 24 years.
Another item that is being cited as "proof" that SSS
is about to begin drafting people is the SSS Annual Performance
Plan, Fiscal Year 2004. This plan, presented to Congress in 2003,
is basically the agency's annual justification for continued funding.
It states various numerical goals for performance and cites specific
amounts of money needed to reach those goals. The 2004 plan is
similar to previous ones and describes activities that are merely
extensions of the ongoing work SSS has done since 1980. A budget
request for $28 million was slightly more than previous budgets,
but there is nothing in the FY 2004 plan that is significantly
different from other recent years.
Someone who misread the 2004 plan distributed an Internet alert
declaring that Bush had requested a $28 million "increase"
in SSS's budget and that the plan was a blueprint to begin drafting
after March 31, 2005. In reality, SSS only got a total of $26.1
million for 2004, and the March date was merely a normal deadline
for SSS to report on whether it had reached its annual performance
plan goals. If such planning were really an indication of an impending
draft, then we would have already had one for two decades.
Another piece of evidence mentioned as "proof" that
a draft is imminent is two companion bills in Congress, S. 89
and H.R. 163, which would require men and women to either do mandatory
civilian or military service. But this legislation was introduced
in January 2003 and has gone nowhere in Congress. It's not likely
to, either, because of features that make it impractical overall,
especially for the military.
One of the organizations that has been spreading misinformation
about the draft on the Internet calls itself the "Democratic
Underground," a left-leaning group that isn't officially
part of the Democratic Party but urges people to vote for Democratic
Party candidates. The DU's interest in spreading fear of an impending
draft is boldly revealed when they declare: "VOTE FOR BUSH
IN 2004, BE DRAFTED IN 2005!!" The irony is that the current
legislation to bring back the draft in Congress is being spearheaded
by Democrats in both the House and Senate, and it is Republicans,
including the Bush administration, who are saying they oppose
a draft. Furthermore, Democratic presidents in the past have shown
plenty of willingness to rely on the draft as a source of cannon
fodder for their own wars.
There are actually good reasons to be concerned about what might
happen in the coming years if military recruiting becomes less
successful and/or the Bush administration further expands U.S.
military intervention abroad, and it is important that individuals
and organizations work to forestall a future draft by communicating
with Congress on the issue now. Some groups in Washington, DC,
are even planning a national effort in May that would focus on
lobbying against draft legislation, and COMD urges people to participate
(for details, contact the Center on Conscience and War, www.nisbco.org,
However, a more immediate issue is the fact that many youths
male and female are already being pressured into
entering the military by a poverty draft, and the military is
deepening its involvement in K-12 schools through recruiting
and curriculum-based indoctrination programs like JROTC
in order to get more young people accustomed to militarization.
This rapidly expanding effort by the Pentagon to influence younger
generations will make it more feasible one day to bring back the
draft, and a failure to increase the amount of attention focused
on this particular problem could make all of the hyperbole about
an impending draft a self-fulfilling prophesy.
To help bring more attention to this problem, various local and
national organizations have come together to form the National
Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth (NNOMY). It is an
effort to bring together grassroots activists and groups that
have recognized the danger posed by the growing intrusion of the
military in young people's lives. COMD urges activists to get
in touch with the groups in this network, which can be reached
or via the AFSC Youth and Militarism office, 215-241-7176.
Finally, we encourage people to get a copy of COMD's flier, "What
You Can Do," which is written for young people, parents and
others who are concerned about the possibility of a draft. Write
to us or download it at our Web site, www.comdsd.org.
This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter
of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (www.comdsd.org)