The Draft: III
The last article in this series explained how the new draft bills affected the chances for student determent. This, the concluding article, discusses those provisions of the bills which will affect all men taken after a new act is passed.
When Secretary of Defense George C. Marshall looked at the draft bills just written by the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, he night well have wondered. Marshall had asked for a universal military training and service act; He had asked for authority to draft 18-year-olds; and he had requested a systematic deferment program. What came down from the Hill was different in many important respects.
First, the UMST provisions have been put off into the future. According to Committee Chairman Carl Vinson (D.-Ga.), UMST has become a very vagne entity in the latest version of the House bill. Although the President will have authority to set up a universal training program, he cannot act immediately. The Senate bill says that he must set up a commission to run this system, but its members must get Senate approval first. The House Committee's proposal may even force the President to work out the plans and get them through Congress before going ahead.
DEFERMENTS FOR 75,000?
Secondly, there is a clause in the Senate bill which lets the Chief Executive defer 75,000 men for the next few years (until 1954) as the Defense Departments have requested. These men will begin their advanced education after finishing a four months "training period," and will owe the other 20 months of "service" which they can make up after their education. But the House bill does not even have this provision. Vinson would rather leave determination of deferments up to the military and the president; he does not like writing them into law.
Lastly, while the Senate did provide for an 18-year-old draft, it specified that this age group could not be drafted until all "available" men in the 19-26 bracket were taken. No one, including members of the Senate Committee, is quite certain what this would mean when the act became law. The House, on the other hand, refused to go below 18 1/2 as a minimum age. Vinson says he does not see the need for a lower age. He believes that the Army can get enough manpower from the 19-26 group, if it uses its resources carefully.
When the House and Senate bills go to a joint committee in April some of these controversial clauses may be traded off. And Vinson will have the chief part in any "deals." He is recognized as more of an expert on homeside military affairs than most generals; and Millard Tydings left a less experienced man in charge of the Senate Military Affairs Committee when he lost chairmanship of that group after last November's elections. Vinson has said that he will fight any attempt to lower the minimum age or to write in a student deferment policy.
The less controversial provisions, however, will probably remain unchanged. So, under the new act, men will have to serve 24 months at some period between the ages of 19 and 26. The first four months will be classified as "training," the rest as "service," with the president free to shorten or lengthen this "service" time as the international situation allows. Each man will go in a reserve unit for the six years after his training and service period.
Despite all the argument and political fuss, the Defense Department is satisfied with the general result of Congress' relatively quick action. Vague as it may be, UMST is still possible: the Republicans lost their struggle to destroy it completely. The executive's hands are still untied so far as authority to defer students goes, though the Senate "availability" clause remains. And, most important, the draft has been extended indefinitely, as both the State and Defense Departments wanted.
After the hemming and hawing cease and the thousands of pages of testimony are catalogued, it can be said that Congress did a conscientious job and a fair one. On the Hill that is saying a lot.