Pentagon has no plans for draft
By Joanna Stone
Despite assurances from the Pentagon that "there will be no draft," the possibility of a war in the Persian Gulf raises questions about compulsory military service.
"I haven't received any formal word of the possibility of any MIT students in the region," said Margaret L. A. MacVicar '65, dean for undergraduate education and advisor to the Reserve Officers' Training Corps.
Although MacVicar has heard statements from the secretary of defense that there will be no draft, she contends that drafts are always a possibility during wartime.
"If we are in a serious prolonged war, I think there will be a draft," MacVicar said. "It is my personal conviction that in the case of a prolonged, sustained war, a draft is inevitable."
Students would be eligible for a draft instituted by the federal government. Student deferments exist, but only through the end of the term for which the drafted student is enrolled. Seniors would be allowed to defer draft enlistment until after they graduate.
All men are registered
Since 1980, when Congress passed the Selective Service Act, all 18-year-old men have had to register with the Selective Service.
Those who do not register may face prosecution by the Justice Department, as well as a fine of up to $250,000 and five years in prison, according to Larry Waltman, a spokesman for the Selective Service. Such people are also ineligible for student loans and other federal assistance programs.
People who are drafted may request CO, or "conscientious objector," status. According to Waltman, a person requesting such status must "prove he has a deeply held religious, moral, ethical beliefs opposed to war, and that his opposition is not just a matter of politics, expediency, or self-interest."
Also, he must prove he is opposed to all war, not just one war in particular. A person must prove such deeply held beliefs by presenting statements and having individuals who know him present statements to such effect.
"If he is a member of a church known to oppose war, for example, if [he] brings proof that he is Amish, then he is automatically classified CO," Waltman said.
Once approved CO status, a person may serve non-combat duty or accept some alternative form of service. He will be excused from any combat duty.
If a draft were instituted, all males 18-26 would be eligible. Twenty-year-olds would be drafted first, by lottery. Not until all eligible 20-year-olds had been enlisted would they begin drafting 21-year-olds. This process would continue until all 26-year-olds had been drafted, at which point 18- and then 19-year-olds would be conscripted.
MacVicar believes that if there is a draft, the Selective Service will probably draft all eligible 20-year-olds and make a dent in other age groups as well. "If there is need for a draft, if the war is of such a nature as to require one, I think all qualified 20-year-olds will be called to duty." MacVicar said.
would be excluded
At this point, women are not eligible for the draft. There would have to be an amendment to the Selective Service Act for women to be eligible, according to Waltman.
Another point of question right now is whether homosexuals will be eligible for draft, he said.
"Homosexuals will be sent induction notices and will have to report for examination," said Waltman. Whether their sexual orientation will be grounds for dismissal will be determined by the military, and that decision has not yet been made at this time, Waltman said.
A hearing on the draft issue, and the possibility of sustaining a war without a draft, had been scheduled for earlier this week by Rep. Les Aspin (D-WI), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. But the hearings have been indefinitely postponed, according to a committee spokesman.
"Right now the draft is a non-issue," said the spokesman, who asked that his name be withheld. "We do not plan to reschedule the hearings for the foreseeable future."