January 7, 1982
Last July I established a Presidential Military Manpower Task Force chaired by Defense Secretary Weinberger. One of the mandates of the Task Force was to examine the cases for and against continued military registration, as well as to review other issues affecting military manpower.
I have now received the report of the Task Force and the recommendations of its members. On the basis of their findings, I have decided to continue registration.
Make no mistake: The continuation of peacetime registration does not foreshadow a return to the draft. I remain firm in my conviction, stated in 1980, that ``Only in the most severe national emergency does the Government have a claim to the mandatory service of its young people.'' No such emergency now exists, and registration is in no way a proxy for conscription.
However, we live in a dangerous world. In the event of a future threat to national safety, registration could save the United States as much as 6 weeks in mobilizing emergency manpower.
This administration remains steadfast in its commitment to an all-volunteer defense force. In 1981 we demonstrated that, in a healthy, just society, men and women will serve their country freely when given the proper encouragement, incentives, and respect. All services met their recruiting goals, test scores improved dramatically, and recruits included the highest proportion of high school graduates ever. Just as volunteer warriors won American independence more than two centuries ago, they stand as proud guardians of our freedom today.
I know that this generation of young Americans shares the sense of patriotism and responsibility that past generations have always shown. All that the action I have taken today requires is that young men when they reach their 18th birthday provide their name, address, and social security number to the Selective Service or at any U.S. Post Office. Late registrations are being accepted, and I have instructed the Department of Justice to make provision for a grace period for late registrants.