All addressed, nowhere to go; draft forms await Senate
Enough selective service forms to register 4 million young men born in 1960 and 1961 for a possible future draft already have been printed and packaged for instant delivery to US Post Offices.
The Carter administration, anticipating eventual passage on the Senate floor of a $13 million money bill for the draft registration, wishes to move quickly to summer registration, probably beginning June 16.
Summer registration would reduce the risk of massive anti-draft demonstrations on college campuses because most students would be on vacation, explain sources in the Pentagon and the Selective Service System.
Brayton Harris, a spokesman for Selective Service System director Bernard Rotsker, said the registration forms had cost about $230,000 to print. These funds, he explained, did not depend on Senate approval of the $13 million administration request. They were already available as part of last year's regular annual $10 million appropriation to keep the skeleton machinery of the old Selective Service System alive.
Congressional foes of registration, led by Sen. Mark Hatfield (R) of Oregon, said they would check whether the Selective Service System had exceeded any spending authority in preparing the forms ahead of time. Senator Hatfield plans to introduce new amendments to delay the bill in the Senate Appropriations Committee May 16.
In a Monitor interview, Mr. Harris confirmed that "draft cards," which he preferred to call "draft status cards" and which include Spanish-language cards, had also been printed, nearly a year ago, using available funds. These are in storage.
Such cards, and, more probably, new ones better suited to computer use, would only be distributed if Congress should decide in the future to classify the young men registered under the authority President Carter already has, Mr. Harris explained.
Mr. Harris said the registration forms have been loaded into trucks at final distribution points, from where they can be driven to post offices, once the $13 million money bill passes. If it does not pass, he said, enough older funds are available to unload them from the trucks again.
Older registration draft forms printed in 1977, four years after the Vietnam-era draft ended, "are not well designed, and not compatible with modern data processing," Mr. Harris explained. This was the reason for printing new forms, which cost about $30,000 more than the $200,000 originally earmarked.
The $13 million appropriation bill, which Senator Hatfield has said he would oppose with a filibuster if necessary, passed the House last month.
About $8 million of it is intended to finance the direct cost of registering 4 million men at $2 a person. The other $5 million is to "revitalize" the old selective service machinery, including approximately doubling the present national staff of about 100 persons, and creating a new computer center.
President Carter's wish to include women in predraft registration was defeated in the House. Defense Department and selective service officials now say they expect the question "to be resolved in the courts," where its legal aspects can be separated from its emotionally issues.
If men's registration does begin this summer, in 1981 eligible persons will be required to register on or near their 18th birthday. The pattern would continue each year, with selective service officials anticipating a new crop of about 2 million 18-year-old registrants annually.
Sen. Gary Hart (D) of Colorado, a member of the Armed Services and Budget Committees, predicted in a CBS "Face the Nation" television panel May 11 that the registration money bill "probably will go through." It was a "mistake," he said, and "it will perpetuate other mistakes, such as imbalances in our force structure." Senator Hart and others have advocated more attention to improving the quality of undermanned US military reserve forces.
Senate Appropriations Committee approval of the bill was delayed April 29 by chairman Warren G. Magnuson (D) of Washington. Maryland Republican Sen. Charles Mathias, another opponent of registration, has said retention of skilled personnel in the armed forces is far more important.