Two separate campaigns to get more young people to serve the government, either as soldiers of civilian workers, struck out in new directions yesterday against a backdrop of anti-draft protests.
Rep. Paul N. McCloskey Jr. (R-Calif.) held a news conference to outline his new strategy for requiring men and women either to take their chances of being drafted by lottery or signing up some form of other compulsory government service.
Rather than try to push his national service bill through Congress right now, McCloskey said, he will settle this year for amending the Pentagon's money bill, schedules to come up for a House vote within the next few weeks.
He said his amendments would require women as well as men to register for the draft; impose that requirement before the 1980 election rather than after it, as the House Armed Services Committee has voted to do; and require the Carter administration to study his proposed national service system.
McCloskey insisted in an interview after his news conference that he was not backing off from his national service bill, which has drawn protests fro, a coalition of antidraft organizations, some of which have demonstrated against the Republican congressman, whose district is heavily populated with college students.
"I have no practical way to force my bill out on the House floor before the draft is a reality," said McCloskey in explaining why he will now concentrate on adding comparatively mild amendments to the pending House bill authorizing fiscal 1980 money for the Pentagon.
He said Republican Policy Committee members seemed impressed by the argument he made to them last week that the all-volunteer armed forces experiment is failing. However, continued McCloskey, the concensus of the Republican group was that "the American people are not ready for the draft."
Another influential opinion, continued McCloskey, was that of Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga), a leading Senate critic of the all-volunteer force. "Sam said the draft was just not politically possible" this year, McCloskey said.
Nunn's view of the possible, said McCloskey, was to enact legislation this year to require registration for the draft; pass a limited draft after the 1980 election, and only after that push for the kind of national service system that McCloskey favors.
McCloskey contended that his amendments to the Pentagon money bill will "force the debate" on whether the United States should require its young people to perform some kind of government service.
He is giving up on the all-volunteer force concept and advocating a return to the draft, McCloskey said, because of Pentagon figures showing that the Army cannot recruit as many men as it needs; the opinions of colonels he has talked to that the army's quality is deteriorating because of the lack of the draft, and his own opinions that the Army is not "combat ready."
As McCloskey held forth in his congression office, another effort to sell the public on the idea of widening young people's participation in government service convened a two-day strategy seesion at the national 4-H center just outside Washington in suburban Maryland.
Called the Committee for the Study of National Service, this group stresses voluntary national service as opposed to McCloskey's call for compulsory service.
Harris Wofford, a former civil rights side to President Kennedy and co-chairman of the committee, called the two-day meeting "a starting point for the debate on how best to attract young people into government service."
Lisa Cobbs, a 22-year-old fellow at the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation, voiced a common complaint of young people at the conference by stating that they had not been consulted adequately in drawing up the agenda.
Jeffrey Schwartz, a 22-years-old Robert Kennedy fellow, warned in a luncheon speech at yesterday's conference that the young people "are extremely suspicious" that the various plans for voluntary government service are "merely the flip side of a coin. The other side is military service."
But pollster George Gallup said that his soundings indicate there is considerable support among young people for government service.
About 82 percent of college students surveyed, Gallup told the conference, favor the concept of serving in the government in some fashion before going on to other careers. Another 12 percent were opposed and six percent had no opinion, Gallup added.