National Draft Registration Effort Hits High Schools
ALBANY, N.Y. – The nation's high school guidance counselors are not just helping students make the right college choices. They are also advising senior boys to register for a potential draft.
Counselors are being urged to inform 17-year-old males that failing to register could make them ineligible for federal financial aid for college, other government benefits and most federal jobs.
This week's campaign in high schools is fueled by the patriotism following the Sept. 11 terrorism attack and the war in Afghanistan.
"Overall, the response has been positive," said Lt. Col. Fred DeWald of the Selective Service System in New York state.
Since the attacks, the system has seen a record number of registrations — about 24,000 a week nationwide compared to the usual 14,000.
By law, young men must register within 30 days of their 18th birthday, usually at post offices. They can also now register online on the Selective Service System's Web site, www.sss.gov.
Penalties remain for those who fail to register even though President Bush said he doesn't intend to revive the draft that ended in 1973 to fight the war against terrorism. The selective service remains in a standby, caretaker status.
It would take legislative action by Congress and implementation by the president to reinstate the draft.
In 13 states, registration is required to get a driver's license, DeWald said.
In New York state, bills have been introduced that would require teens to register for the selective service before obtaining a driver's license or state student aid. Another would make job applicants divulge whether they've registered.
More than 800,000 New Yorkers 17 to 26 years old are registered. That's 78 percent of New York City residents and 89 percent of other New Yorkers, DeWald said. Compliance increased about 7 percentage points after the high school campaign's first year.
"It is tragic to see young men potentially missing out on future opportunities because they just don't know they are required to register," said Selective Service System Director Alfred Rascon.
The threat, and the high school campaign, are unnecessary, argues Rick Jahnkow of the national Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft based in San Diego. He said the campaign is simply scaring high school students because the police and National Guard are adequate to protect America against terrorism. He also said registration could lead to tricking young people.
"One of the real fears we have is that a draft is really used as a tool of indoctrination," he said.
A draft, he said, is un-American.
"If people are not willing to fight it voluntarily, then that implies the state is going beyond what fits with the principles of democracy. We feel that's how we get into things like Vietnam," said Jahnkow, who turned in his draft cards in 1968. He wasn't prosecuted for refusing induction and never served in the military, although he is a counselor to veterans.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.