- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Just more than half of the young men in the District are complying with federal law requiring and registering with the Selective Service when they turn 18. So city officials said yesterday they would work to move closer to the national average.

The District and Nevada rank last in the number of 18-year-olds who register with the database for any future draft, Selective Service Director William A. Chatfield said.

“I’m idealist enough to believe it’s just due to young men not knowing” about the law, Mr. Chatfield said.

Approximately 50 percent of 18-year-old men in the District register on time, and 60 percent register between the ages of 19 and 25, Mr. Chatfield said. Nationally, about 75 percent register at age 18 and closer to 90 percent register before they turn 25, he said.

Failing to register carries a penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Mr. Chatfield said the Justice Department — not his agency — is responsible for prosecuting offenders.

Though the government keeps a database of young men, a mandatory conscription into the military is not imminent, Mr. Chatfield said, adding that would come from Congress.

“It’s an affordable insurance policy,” he said of his agency’s $25 million budget.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday declared May to be Selective Service Month in the District.

“I believe everyone should serve their country — men and women,” Mr. Williams said. “But it doesn’t have to be through the military.”

Mr. Williams — an Air Force veteran — said he objects only to the disproportionate number of poor people fighting for the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan.

D.C. residents can register for the Selective Service when they obtain a driver’s license, a program similar to 34 states, Mr. Chatfield said.

Col. Joseph Nickens, who runs the city’s Junior ROTC program, said cultural differences are likely responsible for the lower number of D.C. students interested in the military compared with more rural areas.

“City kids don’t do that kind of thing as much,” Col. Nickens said.

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