A draft coming through

WASHINGTON — The chief of the U.S. Selective Service System has proposed registering women for the military draft and requiring that young Americans regularly inform the government about whether they have training in niche specialties needed in the armed services.

The proposal, which the agency’s acting director Lewis Brodsky presented to senior Pentagon officials just before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, also seeks to extend the age of draft registration to 34, up from 25.

The issue of a renewed draft has gained attention because of concern that U.S. military forces are stretched thin because of worldwide commitments.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes, U.S. forces have fought and won two wars, have established a major military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq and are now taking on peacekeeping duties in Haiti.

The plan, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, highlights the extent to which agency officials have planned for an expanded military draft in case the administration and Congress authorize one in the future.

“In line with today’s needs, the Selective Service System’s structure, programs and activities should be re-engineered toward maintaining a national inventory of American men and, for the first time, women, ages 18 through 34, with an added focus on identifying individuals with critical skills,” the agency said in a Feb. 11, 2003, proposal presented to Pentagon officials.

I’m well aware of the argument that a reinstatement of the draft would force Americans to confront the real cost of war. But after how long? Another 50,000 names on another somber memorial on the National Mall?