Transcript

The Selective Service

Dan Amon
Spokesman for the Selective Service
Thursday, June 2, 2005; 2:00 PM

In Thursday's article, " After 30 Years, Draft Fears Rise " (Post, June 2), Washington Post staff writer Christian Davenport reports:

"Rarely in the more than 30 years since the draft was abolished has the Selective Service triggered such angst. Two years into the Iraq war, concern that the draft will be reinstated to supplement an overextended military persists -- no matter how often, or emphatically, President Bush and members of Congress say it won't.

"In this atmosphere of suspicion, the Selective Service System, the Rosslyn-based agency that conscripted 1.8 million Americans during the Vietnam War and 10 million in World War II, quietly pursues its delicate dual mission: keeping the draft machinery ready, without sparking fear that it is coming back."

Dan Amon , a spokesman for the Selective Service, was online Thursday, June 2, at 2 p.m. ET to answer your questions about the Selective Service System.

The transcript follows.

____________________

Dan Amon: Hello, everyone. My name is Dan Amon. I'm a public affairs specialist with the Selective Service System. I will be happy to answer your questions.

_______________________

Herndon, Va.: Sir,

with all due respect, how can you possibly continue operations in Iraq without a draft? The U.S. Army has missed its recruiting goals for four straight months, and is off by almost 10 percent for the year. None of the other services, or the national Guard is doing much better. Furthermore the National guard troops are legally limited to an overseas activation period of two years, and all of those soldiers will need to be replaced soon.

We've seen recently the increasingly desperate tactics of military recruiters, That caused the head of military recruiting to order a stand down day.

Worse yet the military has repeatedly lowered its minimum fitness, IQ and Mental health standards and maximum age for recruits, leaving serious questions about their fitness to serve.

How can we possibly continue this war in Iraq, much less provide a credible threat of military action against Iran or North Korea, without reinstituting the draft?

Dan Amon: The Secretary of Defense has continued to maintain that the U.S. has sufficient forces for the missions before it, including Iraq and the war on terrorism.

_______________________

La Salle, Ill.: The article mentions serving on your draft board -- How do you go about doing that?

Dan Amon: Instructions for applying can be found on our web site, http://www.sss.gov. Go to the "Fast Facts" link to find the proper sublink.

_______________________

Alexandria, Va.: While I don't buy the argument that the draft is needed to help offset the current overextension of forces in Iraq, I do wonder whether it might be useful for America to require two years of national service to our country of varying types. I think it could help bring us together as a nation in our current divisive state.

Dan Amon: Thanks for sharing your views with us. That would be a matter for the Congress to consider.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Why is the draft only for males?

The straight answer is most likely "that is the way the law was written." If that is the case, do you forsee a time where women will have to register as well as men (and thus have all the same restrictions on the FAFSA and other governmental documents)?

Thanks.

Dan Amon: There is no provision in the Military Selective Service Act (MSSA) to register or draft females. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld that exclusion. It would take an act of Congress to change that policy.

_______________________

Blacksburg, Va.: I've curiously looked at my husband's registration card (don't have any brothers so I'd never seen one) and note that it has his old address. Is he supposed to update his address? I just assumed the federal government would be able to find him. Are there penalties for letting the information get out of date?

Dan Amon: If he is 26 or older, he no longer has to notify Selective Service of any address changes.

_______________________

Falls Church, Va.: If the draft does come back and you get called up, what is the proper procedure to follow if you are a conscientious objector?

Dan Amon: You would have ten days to file a claim as a CO with your local board.

_______________________

Corvallis, Ore.: If there is a draft, will there still be exemptions for men enrolled at university?

Dan Amon: Unlike the student deferment system during the Vietnam era, a student will be able to finish his current semester. Seniors will be able to finish their final academic year.

_______________________

Falls Church, Va.: With various Congresses and Presidents denying it, the Pentagon saying outright 'We wouldn't want it', and the extreme unpopularity of the idea among the public, why is it that some people continue to think the draft has a chance of coming back in a situation other than an extreme emergency?

Dan Amon: A good question. We understand the anxiety of many people, but can only answer the rumors with the facts.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Hello, at Gallaudet University here in D.C., all the students have to fill out the financial aid forms. The form asks for the Selective Service number but the military barred people with disabilities to serve in the military. Any advice?

Dan Amon: The best advice I could give would be to complete the required forms in order to remain eligible for all the benefits and privileges connected with registration. You would spare yourself the necessity of answering future questions about not being registered, even if disability would rule out actual military service.

_______________________

Ann Arbor, Mich.: Mr. Amon,

Could you please describe the timeframe for a resumption of the Draft -- -if- there is one? Would there be a PR campaign? How long would it take to begin induction: a month, two weeks???

Thank you.

Dan Amon: If called upon the the Congress and President to resume the draft, Selective Service would be able to provide the first young men in approximately 193 days. Before that time, local boards would be activated and many more people hired to administer a draft. Selective Service would hold a lottery and induction notices would go out to the young men chosen in that lottery.

_______________________

Follow-up to Corvallis, Ore.: "Dan Amon: Unlike the student deferment system during the Vietnam era, a student will be able to finish his current semester."

Will this mean that students loose their scholarships and other financial aid (not to mention having to pay back student loans and having interest accrue on them)? Or are there provisions similiar to a Guard call-up where you can return to the same job, pay, etc.

Dan Amon: Yes, a student inducted after that semester would lose the scholarship. Whether he regains the assistance after his service would be up to the school's financial aid office or other source of the scholarship.

_______________________

Norristown, Pa.: If there was a draft announced, I would plan on volunteering with the Air Force before they had a chance to draft me. Would this plan work?

Dan Amon: Yes. As always, you could volunteer in the service of your choice.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Hi, I don't want to go to war, but if my country forced me to, I would want to go as a marine.

If (hypothetically of course) the draft were reinstated, and the army called me up, could I go down the street and enlist as a marine to avoid the army, or would I have to enlist as a marine before the army layed their paws on me?

Dan Amon: You would want to enlist with the Marines first.

_______________________

Kensington, Md.: I have been having problems with the SS for a number of years. I grew up in Canada, and did not learn until after I was 25 that I was an American. I am an American because all my Grand parents were born here and my parents lived in the states for a number of years. I did not then register for the draft because I was too old. Every few years, such as when I applied for a student loan I have problems because I never registered. Is there a way for me to post-25 register so I no longer have to worry about this?

Dan Amon: By law, Selective Service cannot register a man once he reaches the age of 26. Keep in mind that if you can demonstrate that any failure to register on your part wasn't deliberate, or that the law otherwise didn't apply to you, you should not be denied any of the privileges or benefits connected to registration.

_______________________

Chattanooga, Ten.: I support President Bush and the war in Iraq, but not to the extent that I'm willing to see my kids, who are all about college age, get drafted. If the draft were reinstated, wouldn't it make more sense to allow full four year deferments for those in college (or longer, if they go to grad school) so we don't lose an entire generation of educated citizens?

Dan Amon: Allowing Vietnam-era deferments might generate the same mistrust for the system that we saw in the 1960s. We can otherwise be sure that there will never be a shortage of college students.

_______________________

Alexandria, Va.: A basic question: Now that we have women in the armed forces and in the military academies, are women also supposed to register for the draft?

And if not, why not?

Dan Amon: As I mentioned earlier, there is no provision in the law either to register or draft females. The constitutionality of the exclusion was upheld by the Supreme Court in Rostker vs. Goldberg, 1981.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: The intro to this chat says draft-eligible ages are 18 to 25. So now that my husband is 28, I no longer have to worry about him getting drafted?

Dan Amon: You husband is too old to be drafted. If the draft were ever resumed, the first callups would be 20-year-olds. It would be highly unlikely that the pool of 20-year-olds would be exhausted. Even if that happened, the next ages called up, in order, would be 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 19, and 18.

_______________________

Greenbelt, Md.: I'm all for the draft, which should have already been started. Spreading the sacrifice around is the only fair (and American) way of dealing with the current situation. All the many benefits of the wars we're in are being enjoyed by all, the opportunity to sacrifice should not be limited to only the poorest and least educated.

How can I help get this country back on track?

Dan Amon: I would invite you to share your views with your representative in Congress. We have had an all-volunteer military since 1973. Congress, the Department of Defense, and top military officials all say they are pleased with the system and see no need to change it.

_______________________

Houston, Tex.: Since it is a crime for an 18+ male not to register, why does the U.S. Government still give benefits to those who willfully violate the law? For example, the Coast Guard will grant a Merchant Mariner's Document to an unregistered male. The INS will grant citizenship or residency status to those who are required, but do not register for the draft. There are many more examples.

Dan Amon: It isn't true that INS (or CIS, Citizenship and Immigration Services, as it's now called) grants citizenship to men who aren't registered, but should be.

I can speak to the requirements Congress has set. I am not aware of any additional requirements by other agencies in the government.

_______________________

Stafford, Va.: The article this morning stated that 15 million men registered last year. Set the record straight that there are only 2 million men in an age group so how can you register 15 million?

washingtonpost.com: After 30 Years, Draft Fears Rise (Post, June 2)

Dan Amon: Last year, we registered about 2.5 million men. The overall total of men registered over the years is about 15 million.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: O.K. So the prez and viceprez say no draft ... but the Army/Marines will be in IRAQ until 2009. Since there is a limit on the guard and reserve (unless they are conscripted) ... where are all these bodies going to come from for the next FOUR years without a draft?

Dan Amon: You'll need to share with the rest of us how you know for a fact how long the U.S. will be in Iraq. Meanwhile, those whose opinions count have said repeatedly that the draft will not be needed.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: The Selective Service System received a memorandum directive from the National Security Council in 2003 instructing it to prepare for in-person "post-registration selectee processing" using the administrative facilities of local national guard units. Since 2003, each state has established s central SSS point of contact, in each case a national guard officer, paid for out of Federal funds.

How can the SSS deny that the draft is returning at the end of 2006? That's what your own public documents state. I've seen them.

Dan Amon: We have gotten no direction whatsoever that there will be a draft in 2005, 2006, or any other year. Not from the NSC or any other federal agency.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: Mr. Amon, I registered with the Selective Service in 1983 when I turned 18. At that time I was living in Los Angeles. I have since moved to Virginia. Am I obligated to update my address with the Selective Service?

Dan Amon: No. Not since your 26th birthday.

_______________________

Bethesda, Md.: Isn't the name kind of Orwellian? There's nothing selective about it for the individual. If the president deceives us about an attack or threat to the country, as they did in both the Vietnam and most recent of Iraq conflicts, you have to go. You are at the mercy of the honesty of the White House -- which has shown itself to be a precarious proposition.

Dan Amon: Your elected representative in Congress would be more qualified than I to answer that question.

_______________________

Virginia: Hello. I applied for a federal job and HR needs my SS number. I lost it somewhere. Where can I find my number?

Dan Amon: Go to our web site, http://www.sss.gov, and find information on ways to contact us.

_______________________

Clifton, Va.: My son is my only son. Will he be drafted too?

Dan Amon: The "only surviving son" exclusion would apply only in families where another immediate member has died as the result of military service. Whatever the case, he is still obligated by register at the age of 18.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Once someone has served in the military, are they still in the SS system?

I'm not sure what my status would be: I resigned from the USNA after six weeks of plebe summer with an Honorable Discharge. I know I'm not a veteran, but I'm not sure what my status would be with a draft board.

Dan Amon: You would be required to register.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Q1: Is it true that if you have only one son, he will not be drafted. If not, it should be and you would continue to kill our generations. Q2: Has all of the President's 18 and over male relatives registered with Selective Service. Q3: How can our decision makers live with and sleep at night knowing that they are deliberately killing our sons over a war which they know nothing about and did not create. Q4: How do you feel about individuals if drafted going to Canada instead of reporting to duty? Q5: Could you (our decision makers) deny the request of your loved one asking you not to draft your son, nephew, uncle, godson, etc. In conclusion, I have to say that I have several brothers who were in the vietnam war who left as healthy young adults and returned, not so young and not so healthy, and will never be the same, physically, mentally and emotionally and with no family. This type of history should not repeat itself. Out decision makers should put themselves in the shoes of the american families who are the ones making all the sacrifices for whatever decisions you seem to make.

Dan Amon: Q1 -- Only if an immediate family member died as the result of military service.

Q2 -- President Bush registered with Selective Service when he was a young man, and his male relatives face the same requirement.

Q3 -- I'm not a "decision maker" and cannot answer that question. My answers to Q4 and Q5 would be irrelevant.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: Mr. Amon -- I know you keep saying that the authorities have repeatedly said a draft will not be necessary ... but what is your gut feeling? Will you need to draft if things don't quickly get better in Iraq?

Dan Amon: That isn't for me to answer.

_______________________

Alexandria, Va.: As we've had an all-volunteer military for a generation now, we've seen the military become increasingly conservative, and increasingly draw from a pool of young men who often think they had no other choices. The military also seems like a mystery to many middle and upper income Americans who no longer have any personal knowledge of it. I've become convinced that a return of the draft would bring more diversity to the military, and would help make the military more understandable to the American public.

Dan Amon: You've raised some interesting points, and they should all be part of a broader political debate. But for now, the decision makers see no need for a draft.

_______________________

Houston, Tex.: I make too much money for my son to qualify for financial aid. Since the Selective Service and the United States Attorney does NOT prosecute violators, why should he register?

Dan Amon: Financial aid isn't the only privilege connected to registration. Most of the states connect driver's licenses to registration. Your son might also seek federal employment or a security clearance some day.

_______________________

Tampa, Fla.: What procedures have been put in place to avoid the rampant favortism and political corruption of the draft that existed during Vietnam? I missed getting one those all-expense paid vacations to Vietnam by 1 year. My lottery number was 6, but in first year the Army did not draft anyone. I remember all too well the numerous exemptions allowing primarily well-off whites like myself (well, white, but not well off) to avoid service. I also remember the blatant political favoritism -- no child of a sitting Member of Congress was drafted. Others, as you may have heard, jumped waiting lists to get into the Nat'l Guard. This went far beyond student deferments. My generation was fully aware of this and we had no faith in the integrity of the system. You will have no support among the young unless you purge the system of this sort of favoritism, and will face massive resistance if you don't. So please tell us why this won't happen again.

Dan Amon: You've raised some good points. If the draft is ever resumed, it will have to be fair and equitable. And it will have to be generally perceived as such. That's why student deferments will be restricted considerably.

_______________________

Houston, Tex.: Can you register another person other than yourself if there is no relationship with that person?

Dan Amon: Essentially, no. There are no "third party" registrations.

_______________________

Dan Amon: Thanks, everyone. I've enjoyed answering your questions. Before I get back to work, just a reminder ... if you have further questions, go to our web site, http://www.sss.gov, and find the contact information.

_______________________

Allentown, Pa.: If you're gay, and you "tell" (under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy) can you still be drafted?

Isn't that an easy way out of being drafted? I mean, it's not like you can ask for proof, can you?

Dan Amon: It doesn't matter. The young man is still required to register with Selective Service, regardless of any "orientation."

_______________________

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company