Defense: Refilling the Pool

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In the 16 months since President Johnson announced the U.S. military buildup for Viet Nam, draft calls have inched steadily upward. Last month's total — 49,300 — was the highest since early 1951, the peak mobilization period of the Korean War, when 80,000 men a month were called. The effect has been to deplete the nation's 1-A manpower pool to the point at which Selective Service headquarters is now forced to find new ways to replenish it.

The likeliest new source is an estimated 500,000 youths in the 1-Y category who have failed to pass preinduction mental tests. Not only to meet draft needs, but also in line with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's plans announced last August to "salvage" draft rejects from poor backgrounds, intelligence standards have been lowered three times in the past year—eliminating, among other requirements, that of a high school education. Under the latest reduction, ordered last month, a man can score as low as 10 on his armed forces qualification test (perfect score: 100) and still be inducted—a 6% drop that will bring in 40,000 additional youths in the next eight months.

"To Be Ready." Also under review are the 68,369 childless men between 26 and 35, married as well as unmarried, who have not been called because of age. A third group being re-evaluated is made of 3-A "extreme hardship" cases, including Actor George Hamilton, 27, Lynda Bird Johnson's boy friend, who has been exempt on grounds of being the sole support of his four-times divorced mother. Hamilton and some others in this bracket have been ordered to report for physicals and possible reclassification. (Fathers, also classified 3-A, continue to be exempt.)

Though 2,000,000 students are deferred, draft boards will be looking more closely at grades. In all, the classifications of 2,505,540 men—not counting 2,498,023 4-Fs—are being reviewed. Last week, in the course of an optimistic election-eve report on Viet Nam, McNamara predicted that draft calls would be halved during the next four months because of a slower rate of buildup for the war. Nevertheless, Selective Service officials declared, the review of present exemptees will proceed apace, to replenish the manpower drain to date and prepare for contingencies.