A bill has been circulating in the United States Congress (H.R. 163 and S. 89), entitled the Universal National Service Act of 2003. This bill would institute compulsory military and/or civil service for all American citizens between the ages of 18 and 26:

A bill to provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes.
Now, a similar bill was proposed in 2001 (read about it here), which is dead in the water. This bill is currently waiting on an endorsement from the Department of Defense. This bill is harsher, however, with a longer term of service (two years vs. one year) and more stringent requirements.

Lotsa problems arise here. A minor, but interesting one, is the fact that the bill provides for the conscription of U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, etc., who have no opportunity to vote for or against it, which is a bad way to start this off.

Moreso, in cosponsoring the bill, Pete Stark (D-CA) made the following remarks:

The president is intent on invading Iraq whatever the cost. Thanks to the president's brand of hotheaded daily diplomacy, war with North Korea may also be imminent. The only real question that remains is whether or not Americans are ready and willing to bear the cost?

...

It is my understanding that out of the 435 members of this House and the 100 members of the Senate, only one -- only one -- has a child in active military service. Who are we to know the pain of war when we ourselves will not directly bear the brunt of that action? It won't be us mourning the death of a child or a loved one. Maybe some of you in this Congress would think twice about voting for war in Iraq if you knew your child may be sent to fight in the streets of Baghdad?
That sure will teach George W. Bush, Petey. "You want an army, huh? Here's a HUGE army!" Woo. As long as California Democrats are sponsoring universal conscription, you know something's messed up. But why not pass this kind of law? Israel and other countries have used it to great effect, and secured their national defense besides. Why not?

We, as a nation, have a terrible history with the draft, lately. Vietnam? Korea? Iraq, depending on who you talk to? The bulk of the voting population doesn't trust the government to make war anymore, and the nation is so sharply divided on the question of when we should go into combat that no consensus has been reached since World War II, when the need was clear.

The 18- to 26-year-olds of this country, by and large, feel no obligation to serve. Yes, there are plenty of fine men and women who enlist each year, but they constitute a tiny percentage of the population. The formative years are something that people tend to cling to when they're taken away. I know I would vigorously oppose being sent off to the Army and having all the plans I've made destroyed.

Keep your eyes open for this bill, because it's garnering a hell of a lot more support than the last one did.

This bill is called, H.R. 163 in the U.S. House of Representatives, and S. 89, in the U.S. Senate.

What it is

Introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Charles Rangel, Democrat, N.Y., and in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Fritz Hollings, Democrat, S.C. , on January 7th, 2003.

To provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes.

What it would do

All citizens of the United States between the ages of 18 and 26 would be obligated to compulsory service for two years in a branch of the United States Military or an in a yet to be defined

"civilian capacity that, as determined by the President, promotes the national defense, including national or community service and homeland security."

This is an attempt to modify the draft laws of the United States.

It suggests the following amendments to the existing draft laws:

a) REGISTRATION REQUIRED- Section 3(a) of the Military Selective Service Act (50 U.S.C. 453(a)) is amended--

(1) by striking `male' both places it appears;

(2) by inserting `or herself' after `himself'; and

(3) by striking `he' and inserting `the person'.




and

(b) CONFORMING AMENDMENT- Section 16(a) of the Military Selective Service Act (50 U.S.C. App. 466(a)) is amended by striking `men' and inserting `persons'. (a) REGISTRATION- Section 4 of the Military Selective Service Act (50 U.S.C. App. 454) is amended by inserting after subsection (g) the following new subsection:

`(h) This section does not apply with respect to the induction of persons into the Armed Forces pursuant to the Universal National Service Act of 2003.'.

(b) INDUCTION- Section 17(c) of the Military Selective Service Act (50 U.S.C. App. 467(c)) is amended by striking `now or hereafter' and all that follows through the period at the end and inserting `inducted pursuant to the Universal National Service Act of 2003.'.

These sections specifically include women in the draft. It also amends the current draft registration rules to require women to register for the draft as men do now.

This section:

(a) HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS- A person who is pursuing a standard course of study, on a full-time basis, in a secondary school or similar institution of learning shall be entitled to have induction under this Act postponed until the person

(1) obtains a high school diploma;

(2) ceases to pursue satisfactorily such course of study; or

(3) attains the age of 20.

(b) HARDSHIP AND DISABILITY- Deferments from national service under this Act may be made for--

(1) extreme hardship; or

(2) physical or mental disability.

defines when a person is eligible for the draft. Specifically, it eliminates college deferments. Once you have received a high school diploma or turn 20 even if you haven't graduated, you are eligible for the draft.

Is this a law, yet?

No. But it could become one as soon as June 15th of 2005.

Why is this happening?


This bill was introduced into both houses of congress by Democrats who feared that hawkish elements of the majority Republican party would use the current war on terrorism to deplete military resources in foreign campaigns to levels which would compromise defense of the United States. Hypothesizing this would trigger a congressional drive for the resurrection of compulsary military service they could not forestall, representatives felt they would best serve their constituencies by "leveling the playing field". During the prior war for which men were drafted in the U.S., it was felt a disproportinate amount of the poor and minority population was sent into harm's way. By eliminating college deferments and exemptions for women, the congressmen felt the demographics of the people being conscripted would more accurately represent the population of American youth at large.

Said another way, if the rich white guys who never served their country in the armed services felt their own kids were at risk, they'd be less likely to prolong a war to the point the draft was necessary.

What are the chances of this thing getting passed?

My opinion: hard to say. An attempt to include women in the draft was tried unsuccessfully during the debates over the Equal Rights Amendment in the early 70's. Those were different times, and we were different people.

Any event triggering the draft debate (under the "old" rules) would inevitably trigger a debate around this bill, which is why it was introduced. A republican dominated congress could kill it, which in the theory of the democrats who sponsored the bill, would grease the path for the resumption of the draft under the "old" rules. On the other hand, the bill could be passed and the draft resumed anyway, with mothers in Iowa saying good bye to their cheerleader daughters as well as their football playing sons.

It's possible the reason there is little press around this issue is that the chances of the resumption of the draft are miniscule due to the huge public outcry we could expect should one be suggested, and so this bill may be nearly irrelevant. Bills like this have been introduced in the past, for exactly this reason. But the current situation in Iraq brings us closer to considering these options, and so it's important to know this has been suggested.

It's likewise possible the reason there's little press on this bill is its existence has been dwarfed by news of the war and the upcoming presidential election. Neither of the major party candidates would want to complicate their platforms by addressing the draft directly, because both would have to say under the lights and cameras, that if it was necessary, as president, they would resume the draft. They would then go on to define "necessary", but the hearts and minds of Americans would be lost at the period of the first sentence.

More interesting to me as a father of children who would be subject to this ruling, is whether or not the United States continues military action overseas. I would prefer we discontinue this action rather than continuing the course, and obviate the need for the draft by cutting off the demand for troops, rather than act of congress.

What do I do now?

A) Wake up.

B) Vote.

C) Understand the rhetoric. Understand the reality. If you can be drafted, you can vote.

Right now, May of 2004, the left-leaning press is playing up the fact the Selective Service System has received an increase in funding for years 2004 & 2005. Additional staff is being hired in advance of what everyone is sure is a resumption of involuntary conscription. The staff is preparing for the possibility of receiving female conscripts. The bill could be up for vote in spring of 2005, safely away from the Presidential election--and neither Republicans nor Democrats want this to be an election issue. Ralph Nader of the Green Party has raised this issue, though he's getting little to no press.

The U.S. military is fighting a multi-front campaign in Afghanistan and Iraq. Not to mention military actions in the former Yugoslavia, Haiti, and other places throughout the world. Current plans call for U.S. troop strength to remain at constant levels throughout the rest of this year, and at some level indefinitely.

The right leaning press points out that this Bill is a modification to the existing rules. There is still a Selective Service System in the United States. U.S. males are still subject to the draft, irrespective of this bill. Should the draft be reinstated, there would be little different for them in this bill except the dissolution of their college deferments. High School grads who don't go into college are still currently eligible for the draft in the U.S.

Women are currently not eligible for the draft in the United States. That would change with the passage of this bill.

Draftees could be sent to a compulsory civilian service instead of the military. These have yet to be defined.

In addition, the Secretary of Defense and everyone in the military hierarchies prefers an all-volunteer service to a conscripted one. People who have volunteered to serve their country do not lack the motivation to succeed. They are easier to train. They believe in the work, understand the risks, and overall, are a more effective force.

The draft, according to the U.S. Military brass, is the last resort.

You can believe them, or not.





References:
http://www.congress.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d108:H.R.163:
http://hollings.senate.gov/~hollings/press/2003127851.html
http://www.chaosacrossamerica.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=334
http://www.utne.com/webwatch/2004_147/news/11211-1.html
Gazillions of others. Just Google "H.R. 163"

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