Meet Timothy Smith, high school senior.
He doesn't want to go to war. He doesn't believe in violence. But he knows that he's required by law to sign up with the Selective Service in case of a potential draft. If he doesn't, he could lose out on college financial aid or end up in jail."I'm going to college so I know I have to do it," said Smith, a 17-year-old student at Boston's Snowden International High School. "But if a war happened I wouldn't go. War is barbaric."
The Vietnam War may be over, but the angst of signing up for a potential draft still lingers for today's young men and teenagers. Many fail to register with the Selective Service on time. Others don't sign up at all, particularly in urban areas.
Four years ago, about 95 percent of the country's 18- to 25-year-old men had registered. Now, officials think registration has slipped to 90 percent.
That means the number of young men who failed to register has doubled from about 700,000 in 1994 to 1.4 million today, based on estimates that 1.8 million men turn 18 every year.
To tackle the problem - one the agency said is costing taxpayers - a massive sign-up campaign has been aimed at urban high schools.
Officers visited several schools in Boston last week. A weeklong program in Philadelphia began Monday. After that, officers will visit Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami and other cities.
"Anywhere you have high-density urban areas, the dropout rates are high and it's hard to get the message across," said Lew Brod-sky, director of Selective Service's public information office.
"It ends up costing the taxpayers money each time we have to send out letters tracking these guys down and issuing them warning letters," he said. "Besides, if the country were to ever go to war, it's important that we have these men on file."
Signing up doesn't mean every young man is headed to the next war. If Congress reinstated the draft, only men who turn 20 that year would be called on to serve, said Larry Waltman, an agency spokesman.
Registration for the draft was suspended in 1975, but it was resumed in 1980. Now, all men have to register within 30 days of their 18th birthday. If they don't, they can't get financial aid for college, student loans, federal jobs or U.S. citizenship.
Dodgers could also face prosecution, as Paul Jacob experienced. Jacob protested the mandatory registration in 1980 and was charged in federal court in Arkansas with violating the Military Selective Service Act. He was found guilty and served five months in a Texas prison in 1985.
"I believe that the draft registration destroys the values that our society is committed to defending," said Jacob, 38, who lives and works in Washington, D.C.