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Archive for Thursday, June 24, 2004

Draft boards still in service

June 24, 2004

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Last year, federal officials helped feed rumors the draft was going to be reinstated by posting a notice on the Department of Defense Web site that read: "Serve Your Community and the Nation. Become a Selective Service System Local Board Member."

Within hours, the Selective Service, the agency that registers men in case a draft were re-established, was inundated with questions about whether the draft was being reinstituted.

The answer from the Selective Service was no, and the posting was brought down.

But the Selective Service routinely seeks applicants to fill thousands of positions on local boards nationwide. The terms are for 20 years, and many are now expiring, officials said.

Roland Hurst, a retired electronic technologist from KU, is the Lawrence representative on the review board that covers Douglas, Wabaunsee, Osage, Lyon and Coffey counties.

A member since 1992, Hurst said board members received annual training in which they review hypothetical cases and compare practices with other boards. Board members are unpaid.

Hurst said years ago he was asked by a friend who served on the state board to consider serving, and he did.

"I'm interested in fairness," he said.

A draft could only be re-established by the president and Congress.

The local board would decide which draft-aged men would receive deferments. During the last draft era in the Vietnam War, college students who maintained their grades could be excused from military service. If a draft were reinstated now, a college student could only delay induction until the end of the semester.

Bonnie Henderson, a program analyst with the Selective Service regional office in Denver, said board members were selected after being interviewed "to see if they are community-minded, fair and unbiased."

She said the agency provided a "framework" over how the boards should decide appeals for deferments, but that local boards are given flexibility.

"We give locals some leeway. What a board in Pennsylvania thinks is a conscientious objector may not agree with Florida or California. There is no magical list of churches you have to belong to prove your claim," she said.

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