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Patchwork Policy

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Recent international developments have made one thing clear about the nation's patchwork draft deferment policy: as time goes on, it will be incapable of handling the needs of the armed forces in a manner fair to prospective draftees. The manpower shortage is "more critical" than is generally supposed, according to Selective Service officials, and draft boards are dipping more and more freely into the 2-A lists--men deferred to finish their education--in order to fill their quotas.

Priority decisions still rest with the local boards, however, and local quota needs, rather than a deferment status, are becoming the main factor is determining who gets his uniform first.

Any one of several overall deferment plans now working their way toward Congress would be an improvement over the present uncertain situation. They all have their shortcomings. Universal Military Service, as proposed by President Conant, might wreek many small colleges if it were not put into effect slowly and carefully. Draft programs relying on grades or aptitude examinations to determine deferments would tend to create a race for grades in colleges and, even more undesirable, a "college elite."

Right now there is no grade race, no elite, indeed no certainty as to whether there will be any colleges at all once draft quotas really begin to pinch the local boards. If Congress does not specify a uniform draft policy for the nation, but merely renews the local option provisions of the present bill, there will be something akin to chaos in American colleges within the next year.

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