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Feeling A Draft: 

New law ties PFD to draft registry

SELECTIVE SERVICE: State will forward information to feds.


By SEAN COCKERHAM
Anchorage Daily News

(Published: December 27, 2003)

JUNEAU -- Alaska men between 18 and 25, stand at attention: Selective Service registration will now be a requirement to get a Permanent Fund check.

Starting Jan. 1, state law will demand that Alaskans be listed with federal Selective Service to get the dividend. The state plans to forward information from the dividend applications to the federal government, which will automatically register the eligible Alaska males who haven't already signed up.

Under federal law, men are supposed to register with the Selective Service within 30 days of turning 18. Failure to register is technically punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of as much as $250,000. But a lot of people don't do it. 

The state Legislature and the U.S. government wanted more Alaskans on the list, which the military would use to draft troops. There hasn't been a draft in the United States since 1973.

Members of the Alaska Libertarian Party argue that the state shouldn't be aiding a federal effort to force Alaskans into the military.

"A lot of people aren't going to like it," predicted Alaska Libertarian Party chair Scott Kohlhaas.

Word of the new requirement doesn't seem to have spread. Rob Hartley, a guidance counselor at Dimond High School in Anchorage, said he hadn't heard about it and doesn't think word has filtered down to the students either.

"No, I would seriously doubt that they know about that," Hartley said.

The Legislature passed the law two years ago. It also included requirements, which went into effect in July, that Alaskans be registered with the federal Selective Service in order to get a state job or a state student loan. Then-state Rep. Lisa Murkowski, who is now a U.S. senator, sponsored the bill.

In other states, federal officials have urged state legislators to make Selective Service registration a requirement for getting a driver's license. But they came up with a better idea in Alaska, said Debby Bielanski, acting director of the regional Selective Service office in Denver.

"When they looked at Alaska, they felt the most efficient way to reach the greatest number of people would be through tying compliance with Selective Service to the Permanent Fund dividend," she said

Nearly every Alaskan applies for the annual dividend check. The state sent out $1,107 checks to about 600,000 Alaskans this fall. That's about 94 percent of the population.

But when it comes to registering with the Selective Service, Alaska could improve, according to federal officials.

In Alaska, 76 percent of 18-year-old men registered last year, according to the Selective Service. Men are supposed to remain registered until they turn 26 years old. 

Eighty-eight percent of Alaska males had registered prior to their 26th birthday. Some states, such as Arkansas and Delaware, report almost perfect compliance.

Alaska might get close by tying it to the dividend, according to Selective Service officials.

Here is how it will work: There will be a new line on this spring's dividend applications that reads: "by submitting the application I am consenting to register with the U.S. Selective Service system if required by law." The state will then pass on information to the Selective Service for automatic registration.

"It's going to be very straightforward and easy," said Sharon Barton, state dividend chief.

The bill unanimously passed the Legislature in 2002. Murkowski, the sponsor, said at the time that some Alaskans might not realize there is a federal requirement.

"This is particularly timely in view of the attack on America on September 11th and the resurgence of patriotism and service to protect our freedom and way of life in our country," Murkowski wrote in her sponsor statement for the bill.

Kohlhaas, the Libertarian, said he talked to lawyers in hopes of blocking Murkowski's law but hasn't found effective grounds for a legal challenge. He said he is opposed to the idea of a draft registration in general.

"Because we are Libertarians and Libertarians believe that you own your life. It's a life ownership issue," Kohlhaas said.

Kohlhaas is trying to go after the draft at the ballot box. He and others collected the 6,352 signatures needed to get an anti-draft citizen's initiative placed on the Anchorage citywide ballot for the April municipal election. 

The initative, if passed by Anchorage voters, would create a task force "to study the effects of making residents of the Municipality of Anchorage exempt from registration with the Selective Service System and how that may best be accomplished, and to issue a report on its findings and conclusions."

Mayor Mark Begich would have to write Selective Service officials and advise them that Anchorage wants its citizens exempt from registration until the task force report is done.

Reporter Sean Cockerham can be reached at scockerham@adn.com.

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