"I oppose the war in Iraq, but I support the military and the men and women who serve in it,"Congressman Rangel said as he announced the reintroduction of his bill to bring back the military draft. "What is happening now indicates to me that the entire volunteer system is in danger of collapse under the weight of the burden being placed on those who are serving."
The Congressman said his decision to reintroduce his draft legislation was prompted in part by the growing crisis in military recruiting, which in recent months has suffered a 30 percent decline in enlistments.
Congressman Rangel, a Purple Heart and Bronze Star veteran of the Korean War, first introduced legislation to reinstate the draft in January 2003. The bill was defeated by the House of Representatives in a surprise vote in October 2004. Congressman Rangel says he believes that the vote was an effort by the Republican leadership to end widespread rumors of President Bush's intention to resort to conscription after the 2004 election.
As in the 108th Congress, the new bill would cover all men and women, 18-26 years of age. It would make military service compulsory for the number determined by the President or alternative national civilian service for those remaining. The length of active duty service would be reduced to 15 months, in line with the recent change announced by the Army. As before, deferments for education would be permitted only through completion of high school, up to age 20, and for reasons of health or conscience.
"The longer we stay in Iraq and the more Americans are killed, and the less attractive military service appears to potential recruits, the closer the country will move toward a decision on the draft," the Harlem Congressman said.