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 volatile situation.
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.