WASHINGTON – The rate of American men signing up for the military draft rose 4 percent last year, the first increase in a decade.
"But we still have much work to do," Lew Brodsky, a spokesman for the Selective Service System, said Tuesday.
Compliance remains low in the nation's inner cities and Southern border states, jeopardizing young men in those areas who could lose "a college education, good jobs, job training and, for immigrants, their chance to become U.S. citizens," Brodsky said.
A state-by-state survey conducted by the agency found that 87 percent of the men who turned 20 in the last calendar year had signed up with the Selective Service. That's up from the previous year's 83 percent of 19-year-olds who had already registered.
The law requires that all young men living inside the United States and its territories register with the Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthday. That includes immigrants and noncitizen residents of the United States.
The names are gathered in case a national emergency should require a military draft. Failure to register is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Ignorance, rather than willful resistance, usually accounts for the agency's compliance numbers, Brodsky said.
"It is tragic to see young men potentially missing out on future opportunities because they just don't know that they are required to register," he said. "But even more tragic is that our experience shows the young men most likely to miss the message are the very men who may stand the most to gain from these opportunities."