24. THE DRAFT REPORT COVER-UP
In January, 1982, President Reagan executed a sharp about-face and
ordered an indefinite continuation of peacetime draft registration.
The primary reason cited for the turnaround was that six to eight weeks
could be saved in the registration time needed to procure enough manpower
in case of a national emergency. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger
asserted that only the current system can provide rapid identification
and induction of draft-age men into the armed forces.
The six-to-eight week figure was supposedly arrived at after careful
consideration of a 13-page special report submitted to the President
by the Military Manpower Task Force.
However, spokesmen for both Draft Action and the American Civil Liberties
Union, which helped the anti-draft organization make the document public,
accused the President and his administration of purposely misrepresenting
the conclusions of the report.
The Task Force, commissioned by Reagan to study the various optional
available to insure a rapid and effective mobilization, in fact presented
Reagan with a wide variety of choices for meeting the nation's manpower
needs and made no specific recommendation as to which course would be
most effective and expedient. Options explored by the task force were
to continue the current system, to register men only after mobilization,
to conduct an accelerated post-mobilization registration, or to register
men during a time of rising international tension.
The current administration and Selective Service Commission are faced
with nationwide falling draft compliance rates. Releasing a report which
revealed that the current draft registration system is not necessarily
the best one could hardly be expected to turnaround the compliance rates.
The Task Force report and the failure of Thomas Sasway's prosecution
to dissuade resisters left the administration with a thorny and socially
While the Reagan administration could do little to stifle Sasway, it
could do something about the unsatisfactory Task Force report which
did not support the administration's policies.
Rick Jahnkow, of San Diego CARD (Committee Against Registration and
the Draft), charged "The refusal to make this report public was
obviously an attempt to cover-up the nature of its conclusions, allowing
Reagan to reverse his earlier campaign stand against draft registration
and pass the responsibility on to his 'expert' military planners."
Los Angeles Times, 10/27/82, "U.S. Lied About Draft, Group Charges,"
by David Wood; correspondence from Rick Jahnkow, San Diego CARD, 1/13/83.