By CAPT Samuel F. Wright, JAGC, USN (Ret.)
President Obama has nominated Larry Romo, a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel from San Antonio, to be the next Director of the Selective Service System. The nomination will require Senate confirmation, and it is expected that he will be confirmed easily.
Congress abolished the draft in 1973, and the Selective Service System then went into a “deep drawdown” mode. In 1979, after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, President Carter reactivated the Selective Service System and reinstated draft registration. Young men are required to register upon turning 18. Compliance rates vary, but in recent years Congress has provided that draft registration is a condition precedent to eligibility for certain government benefits, including student loans and grants. Tying registration to grants has improved the rate of compliance with the registration requirement.
ROA Resolution 08-21 urges Congress to provide full funding for the Selective Service System, and Resolution 08-17 urges Congress to enact legislation tying Selective Service registration to eligibility to obtain a driver’s license or state identification card. ROA fully supports the registration requirement. In the unlikely but certainly not inconceivable event that the draft must be reinstated, because of some dire national emergency, having the young men registered would save very valuable time in getting them inducted, trained, and sent where needed.
During the Cold War, National Guard and Reserve forces provided our nation’s strategic reserve. If a major worldwide conflagration broke out, these Guard and Reserve units would be mobilized, but they were not mobilized for lesser military contingencies, including the Vietnam War.
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, our National Guard and Reserve forces have been transformed from a strategic reserve to an operational reserve, and more than 740,000 Guard and Reserve personnel have been called to the colors, some more than once. Since the National Guard and Reserve have become the operational reserve, where is the strategic reserve? Our members frequently ask this question.
In my opinion, the registrants in the Selective Service System should be considered part of the Strategic Reserve. If a major, worldwide war were to break out, Congress would reinstate the draft the young men who have registered would be drafted. I don’t want to understate the difficulties involved in this approach. These young men have received no military training, and many are unable to meet the health and fitness standards of our Armed Forces. But in a really dire emergency, this is what it would come to. Fully funding the Selective Service System and requiring registration in advance are a small price to pay for this insurance policy.