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Draft System Based On Decisions By 'Friends'

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Draft System Based On Decisions By 'Friends'


By Jon Lewis

The Universal Military Training and Service Act—the draft—has often come under critical attack, especially during times of international crisis.

But critics, according to Lt. Gen. Lewis B. Hershey, director of the U.S. Selective Service System, have “suggested only proven failures or untried visionary methods for its replacement.”

The present system, Hershey says, "works.”

To find out how it works and whom it affects, The News contacted Col. Arthur A. Holmes, state director of the Michigan Selective Service System.

The present draft system is based upon the principle that a young man’s “friends and neighbors”—persons of the same community—are best suited to determine whether he is qualified for military service.

It grew from opposition during the Civil War to a federally controlled and impersonal, centralized system that could not take local circumstances into account.

It delegates to the communities of the country the responsibility and the power to participate in the federal program.

Local boards are staffed by volunteer, unpaid men who use state and federal “directives'' guides, but don't have to follow them.

They receive monthly manpower quotas from the Defense Department based upon the needs of the Armed Forces and the estimated number of available men from the individual draft boards themselves.

Here is where the local boards use their own discretion choosing which candidates for induction should be deferred.

Local members are William E. Brown Jr., chairman; Robert Norris, vice-chairman; Harold M. Dorr, secretary; Louis E. Burke and Seneca V. Taylor, members; and Joseph C. Hooper Sr., government appeal agent.

"We're pretty much free to make our own decisions," Dorr said, "But we usually follow directives, especially when no other guidelines are available.

Dorr said the Ann Arbor draft board refused to comply with a request by the state board to reclassify local registrants who participated in the October 1965, student sit-in protest of the Vietnam war at the draft board’s office.

Some 29 students participated in the sit-in. They were arrested for trespassing, and 14 of them subsequently had their deferments taken away by local boards. Two of them have successfully appealed their reclassification in the U. S. Court of Appeals, and several others have had their deferments restored by local boards.

Under the law, each male must register with his local draft board on or within five days of his 18th birthday.

The board then classifies the youth. In most cases, he is put into class 1-A—available for military service.

But if the youth is a student or has a job that the board considers vital to the national interest, he will be given a deferment.

Jobs vital to the national interest include those necessary to “maintain an effective national economy; to promote fullest utilization of our technical and scientific manpower; and to build and maintain the Reserve and National Guard.”

Ministers and theology students are deferred to provide for the nation's spiritual needs.

(Next: The classifications and appeal.)