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[] U.S. military contemplates drafting "computer experts",

San Francisco Chronicle, Saturday, March 13, 2004

'Special skills draft' on drawing board
Computer experts, foreign language specialists lead list of military's

Eric Rosenberg, Hearst Newspapers

 Washington -- The government is taking the first steps toward a
military draft of Americans with special skills in computers and foreign

 The Selective Service System has begun the process of creating the
procedures and policies to conduct such a targeted draft in case
officials ask Congress to authorize it and the lawmakers agree to such a

 Richard Flahavan, a spokesman for the Selective Service System, said
planning for a possible draft of linguists and computer experts had
last fall after Pentagon personnel officials said the military needed
people with skills in those areas.

 "Talking to the manpower folks at the Department of Defense and others,
what came up was that nobody foresees a need for a large conventional
such as we had in Vietnam," Flahavan said. "But they thought that if we
have any kind of a draft, it will probably be a special skills draft."

 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said he would not ask Congress to
authorize a draft, and officials at the Selective Service System, the
independent federal agency that would organize any conscription, stress
that the possibility of a so-called "special skills draft" is likely far

 A targeted registration and draft is "is strictly in the planning
said Flahavan, adding that "the whole thing is driven by what appears to
the more pressing and relevant need today" -- the deficit in language
computer experts.

 "We want to gear up and make sure we are capable of providing (those
of draftees) since that's the more likely need," the spokesman said,
that it could take about two years to "to have all the kinks worked out.

 The agency already has in place a special system to register and draft
health care personnel ages 20 to 44 in more than 60 specialties if
necessary in a crisis. According to Flahavan, the agency will expand
system to be able to rapidly register and draft computer specialists and
linguists, should the need ever arise. But he stressed that the agency
received no request from the Pentagon to do so.

 The issue of a renewed draft has gained attention because of concerns
U.S. military forces are over-extended. Since the Sept. 11, 2001,
strikes, U.S. forces have fought two wars, established a major military
presence in Afghanistan and Iraq and are now taking on peacekeeping
in Haiti. But Congress, which would have to authorize a draft, has so
shown no interest in renewing the draft.

 Legislation to reinstitute the draft, introduced by Rep. Charles
D-N.Y., has minimal support with only 13 House lawmakers signing on as
sponsors. A corresponding bill in the Senate introduced by Sen. Fritz
Hollings, D-S.C., has no co-sponsors.

 The military draft ended in 1973 as the American commitment in Vietnam
waned, beginning the era of the all-volunteer force. Mandatory
for the draft was suspended in 1975 but resumed in 1980 by President
Carter after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. About 13.5 million men,
18 to 25, are registered with the Selective Service.

 But the military has had particular difficulty attracting and retaining
language experts, especially people knowledgeable about Arabic and
Afghan dialects.

 To address this need, the Army has a new pilot program underway to
Arabic speakers into the service's Ready Reserves. The service has
up about 150 people into the training program.

 A Pentagon official familiar with personnel issues stressed that the
forces were against any form of conscription but acknowledged the
groundwork already underway at the Selective Service System.

 "We understand that Selective Service has been reviewing existing
organizational mission statements to confirm their relevance for the
future," the official said. "Some form of 'special skills' registration,
not draft, has been a part of its review."

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