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The draft is a smokescreen

The Selective Service System died on June 30, 1973. Conservatives, such as myself, joined with liberals in the coalition to end peacetime conscription. In times of peace the draft imposes unnecessary restrictions on the freedoms of the draftee and his family.

Since that time I have consistently been in the vanguard of the national debate to maintain the all-volunteer force. No one in Congress has a better voting record in support of a United States defense capability superior to all others than do I. That is still my position. But I do not believe peacetime conscription is an ingredient of that. Moreover, I believe it to be inconsistent with the ideals of a free society.

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At the time we ended the draft, however, I reminded my liberals friends that they must be prepared to increasem defense spending, owing to the increased manpower costs involved in a volunteer military. As the song says, freedom isn't free.

Unfortunately, our liberal friends have wanted to have their cake and eat it too. Since 1973, Congress has unrelentingly cut defense spending as a percentage of our national budget. During this period, per capita manpower costs have increased by $17,702 or 62.6 percent.

There is a fundamental injustice in going back to conscription. The American tradition is founded on an attachment to the principle of individual freedom. Imposition of a draft is contrary to that principle. It violates the spirit of the 13th Amendment -- protection against involuntary servitude.

Another question is who will shoulder the economic burden. Conscription is a device for shifting much of the manpower cost of protecting this nation from the backs of the protected (the civilian population) to the protectors (the draftees), who can be paid less in conscription than they could earn in the private sector. If the draftee is paid a fourth of what he might otherwise earn in the job market, he is in effect assuming a 75 percent tax burden. It seems to me that those of us outside the military have the responsibility of assuming these costs, not those we have asked to serve.

Then there is the unfair method in which draftees are selected. Conscription must -- if it is to most effectively serve the national interest -- be inequitable. How could anyone evaluate the loss to our national security by putting an Albert Einstein in uniform for two years?

With the all-volunteer force, the quality of United States's military forces is directly related to the amount taxpayers are willing to pay to enjoy their precious security of life, liberty, and property. That is a question of national priorities. We do not draft policemen and firemen. We hire dedicated, professional career people. The same principle, short of a crisis, applies at the national level.

The question then arises, do we have such a crisis? President Carter certainly implies that we do. He has stated that "we must pay whatever price is required to remain the strongest nation in the world." The first obligation of any administration is to guarantee the security of the nation.

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Yet his words belie his actions:

1. President Carter slashed $5 billion from President Ford's last budget proposal for defense causing great injury to our naval capability.

2. President Carter cut $57 billion from President Ford's recommendations for defense spending for the years 1979-83.

3. President Carter killed the B-1 bomber program.

4. President Carter killed the funding for the nuclear carrier.

5. President Carter shelved the development and deployment of the neutron warhead.

6. President Carter has delayed progress on the cruise missile, Trident, and the MX mobile missile programs.

President Carter now seems to be resurrecting involuntary conscription as a smokescreen to hide his own inadequacies and mistakes.

Let us not give up on concepts as important as voluntarism and freedom so long as we still possess other options. If we get our national priorities straight, we can still guarantee the security of life, liberty, and property in a way consistent with our highest ideals.


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