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Brass Tacks

The Draft: II

By William M. Simmons

Last week's article discussed the problem of getting Universal Military Service and Training written into a new draft act and the political lineup on the measure in Congress. Today's article takes up the probability of of immediate student deferment.

Ever since debate on a new draft act opened, students have been hearing that they should await passage of this bill before acting. Some have taken this to mean that the new measure would solve all their problems and make clear what would happen to them. This impression is, in at least one way, incorrect. What the students are actually waiting for is action by the Chief Executive; in the new bill as in the Selective Service Act now on the books the president has all authority to defer students.

Some of the confusion in people's minds is due to the "time element" in discussions of deferment in the Senate and House hearings. Both groups of Congressmen heard educators and others carefully outline various deferment plans and argue to have these written into the law. But the witnesses were referring to deferment under UMST the long-run provision of the bill. They were not talking about freeing students under the extended selective service which will operate until UMST goes into effect.

Many deferment proposals came to the committees. For an instance, President Conant advocated a "feed-back" system developed by the Association of American Universities. This would defer a limited number of men for completion of their education, with all the rest going into service immediately. Those deferred would have to serve later, but this plan would keep colleges from being wrecked altogether when UMST first goes into operation, taking all healthy students into the army. The "feed-back" program would stop after the first few years of UMST, by then enough men would be coming back into civilian life to replace those leaving for service.

Another proposal is General Hershey's which has just recently received a great deal of publicity, Hershey wants a nation-wide test of all students at college age. Men receiving a certain score would be deferred. (Most Harvard men would stay in school if the original score Hershey mentioned were used.) In addition a certain top percentage of each class would be deferred automatically. The Director of Selective Service has now asked the executive agencies to pass on this plan so President Truman can put it into operation immediately under the present selective service act.

Neither House of Congress chose to write any immediate deferments into law. Their rules on deferments refer to UMST, which goes into operation as soon as the President can set up the system. But this may take a couple of years at best. Senator Lyndon Johnson (D-Tex.) thinks, in fact, that it will not start working for at least four years. Each House did leave in its bill, however, a statement (included in the present law) that the President may defer any and all groups of students as he sees fit. So the President will have, as he has now, authority to act on deferments affecting men now in college or coming to college soon.

It is not known exactly what plan Truman will choose, or when he will make his decision. It is probable, however, that he will not act until Congress finishes its draft bills and sends them to the White House. His delay would be partly out of courtesy to the legislators, partly pure political acumen: to defer men while Congress is still debating the necessity of drafting them would hardly be wise.

Tomorrow's article will discuss other provisions of the new draft bills and what finally happened to UMST when Congress finished working on it.

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