Draft Registrations Increase, But Many Still Fail To Comply
The Selective Service System reported last week that it received almost twice as many completed draft-registration forms as usual during the first three weeks of February, indicating that last month's grace period for delinquent draft registrants was "a tremendous success."
Joan Lamb, a Selective Service information specialist, said the agency would not have a final tally on the number of men who signed up for the draft during the late-registration period, which was announced by President Reagan on Jan. 7, until the middle of this month.
"But we know that post offices sent us almost double the normal volume of filled-out registration forms during the first three weeks of the late sign-up period," Ms. Lamb added. "That certainly would indicate that something good was happening."
The draft-registration law--which was signed by former President Carter during the summer of 1980, and which received President Reagan's endorsement in January--requires young men to provide the Selective Service System with their name, current and permanent addresses, telephone number, birthdate, and Social Security number within 30 days of their 18th birthday.
Conviction on charges of failure to register is a felony, carrying a maximum penalty of $10,000, a five-year prison term, or both.
According to the draft-registration agency, U.S. Census Bureau statistics indicate that almost 900,000 out of 7.4 million young men born between January 1960 and February 1964 have not fulfilled their obligation to sign up for the draft.
The first of hundreds of thousands of nonregistrants, who did not take advantage of the penalty-free late sign-up period that ended on Feb. 28, could face trial in federal courts as early as mid-April, Ms. Lamb said.
Opponents of the draft-registration program claim that adjudication of that many draft registration-evasion cases would prove to be a difficult, if not impossible, task for the Justice Department and the federal courts.
The young lawbreakers, however, would face much lighter penalties under a bill being proposed by Representative Les Aspin, Democrat of Wisconsin.
Warren L. Nelson, Representative Aspin's administrative assistant, said the Congressman, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, planned to introduce legislation before the end of this week that would reduce the penalty for failure to register to a maximun fine of $200.
"Our philosophy is that the punishment should conform to the gravity of the crime," Mr. Nelson explained.
"The penalties now in effect were written into law when a military draft was taking place. In fact, right now the maximum penalty for draft evasion is exactly the same as it is for failure to register.
"We feel," he added, "that the prospect of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine is simply too high for a period when we do not have a draft."--T.M.