Although public debate on reviving the draft started in 1980, and was perceived as a reaction to the international crises in Iran and Afghanistan, the plans were already well underway.
Detailed specifications for setting up draft boards and resuming classification and registration operations have secretly existed for about two years.
It was only through a suit filed by the Friends Peace Committee (FPC) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that these plans were made available. And then the mass media failed to alert the public of what to expect.
FPC’s first request for the documents in July, 1978, was ignored by the Selective Service System (SSS) on grounds that the records were “interagency” memoranda.
The series of major planning documents, finally obtained a year later in an out-of-court settlement, included a National Registration Plan, an Emergency Military Manpower Procurement System Manual, and a Mobilization Readiness Exercise.
The Registration Plan would initiate the draft with a one-day mass registration, followed by an ongoing registration program. Much of it would be done in schools. In Pennsylvania alone, according to the documents, SSS has designated 433 public and private schools to serve as compulsory registration centers. Thomas Conrad, of the FPC, mentions the possibility of schools being required to turn over class lists to Selective Service so that compliance with the draft can be verified.
Although the role of local draft boards will be confined to those cases not handled by computers, SSS knows exactly where every board will be located. According to the records released, SSS has already secured the enthusiastic cooperation of members of veterans’ organizations to serve on these boards.
Based on the assumption that “an aggressive, well coordinated publicity effort is essential to the success of registration,” SSS is counting on the cooperation of the media to provide publicity for the draft. SSS plans a nationwide distribution of media kits.
The threat of reinstatement of the draft is much more immediate when spelled out in specifics and much more likely to arouse opposition.
The attempted cover-up by the Selective Service and the lack of media coverage after the information was available as a result of the FOIA request by the Friends Peace Committee qualifies this story for nomination as one of the “best censored” stories of 1979.
The Progressive, December, 1979, “The Best-Laid Plans,” by Thomas Conrad.