Rangel introduces bill to reinstate draft

Rumsfeld says he sees no need for military draft

Jan 8, 2003

WASHINGTON (CNN) --Rep. Charles Rangel introduced a bill in Congress Tuesday to reinstate the military draft, saying fighting forces should more closely reflect the economic makeup of the nation.

The New York Democrat told reporters his goal is two-fold: to jolt Americans into realizing the import of a possible unilateral strike against Iraq, which he opposes, and "to make it clear that if there were a war, there would be more equitable representation of people making sacrifices."

"I truly believe that those who make the decision and those who support the United States going into war would feel more readily the pain that's involved, the sacrifice that's involved, if they thought that the fighting force would include the affluent and those who historically have avoided this great responsibility," Rangel said.

"Those who love this country have a patriotic obligation to defend this country," Rangel said. "For those who say the poor fight better, I say give the rich a chance."

According to Rangel's office, minorities comprise more than 30 percent of the nation's military.

Under his bill, the draft would apply to men and women ages 18 to 26; exemptions would be granted to allow people to graduate from high school, but college students would have to serve.

Anyone who didn't qualify for military service because of impairments would be asked to perform community service.

The lawmaker has said his measure could make members of Congress more reluctant to authorize military action. The Korean War veteran has accused President Bush and some fellow lawmakers of being too eager to go to war.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters Tuesday he sees no need for a draft. He said the military is managing to attract enough skilled recruits without one.

"We're not going to re-implement a draft. There is no need for it at all," Rumsfeld said. "The disadvantages of using compulsion to bring into the armed forces the men and women needed are notable."

Draft controversy

The nation had a draft in place between 1948 and 1973. It grew to become the center of controversy during the Vietnam War, 1964-1975, an undeclared war that was the most unpopular conflict America has fought.

Anger over the war led many young men to flee to Canada and elsewhere to avoid the draft, and violent protests were rampant. When the draft ended, the United States set up an all-volunteer military.

Since 1980, the Selective Service has required men 18 to 26 to register to give the government a pool of men it could draw from in case troops were needed in an emergency.

As of October 31, 14.1 million men would be eligible for a draft, said Selective Service spokesman Pat Schuback. Twenty-year-olds would be called up first, followed by others -- year by year. In the age group 20 to 26, 11 million would be eligible.

The average number of men registered per year during the Vietnam War era was 18.4 million. That covers the period from July 1, 1964, through June 1973.