Clinton sees no way of avoiding draft register

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BILL CLINTON, famous for avoiding service in Vietnam, has overruled his defence chiefs to order that all American males continue to register for the military draft at the age of 18, although he admits there is little likelihood they will be ever called up.

In separate letters to the Senate and House of Representatives, Mr Clinton urged spending of dollars 23m ( pounds 15m) to fund the Selective Service System (SSS), the US agency which administers the draft, saying it was essential for long-term national security and as a 'hedge against unforeseen threats'.

In March, the Pentagon had sent its own report to Congress, saying the SSS could be scrapped since it would not interfere with military mobilisation in time of war, and would have no effect on recruitment to the armed services.

In the end, Mr Clinton took the advice of his White House national security advisers, who insisted the present system be kept in operation. Ending registration, he said, 'could send the wrong signal to potential enemies', and would remove a 'low-cost insurance policy' against the risk of underestimating an enemy's overall threat to the US.

Finally, argued a President who is conspicuously uncomfortable in military settings, it was important in an era where fewer Americans had direct experience of the armed forces, to maintain the link 'between an all-volunteer force and society at large'.

Mr Clinton was eligible for the Vietnam draft in the late 1960s. He manoeuvred to defer it while a student at Georgetown and Oxford Universities. His behaviour was technically legal, but became a great embarrassment during the 1992 election campaign and has been a notable factor in his awkward relations with the Pentagon since taking office.