I AM releasing today the report of the Task Force on Manpower Conservation, appointed by President Kennedy on September 30, 1963. I regard with utmost concern the two principal findings of that report.
First, that one-third of the Nation's youth would, on examination, be found unqualified on the basis of standards set up for military service and
Second, that poverty is the principal reason why these young men fail to meet those physical and mental standards.
The findings of the Task Force are dramatic evidence that poverty is still with us, still exacting its price in spoiled lives and failed expectations. For entirely too many Americans the promise of American life is not being kept. In a Nation as rich and productive as ours this is an intolerable situation.
I shall shortly present to the Congress a program designed to attack the roots of poverty in our cities and rural areas. I wish to see an America in which no young person, whatever the circumstances, shall reach the age of twenty-one without the health, education, and skills that will give him an opportunity to be an effective citizen and a self-supporting individual. This opportunity is too often denied to those who grow up in a background of poverty.
This war on poverty, however, will not be won overnight. And we are now faced with the problem of those young men--already out of school--who would fail to meet minimal health and mental achievement standards.
After reviewing the findings and recommendations of the Task Force report, I have determined to take the following actions:
First, I am directing the Secretary of Defense and the Director of the Selective Service System to proceed to conduct, as soon as possible, examination of all new registrants who are out of school and otherwise available for service.
The Universal Military Training and Service Act of 1951 provides that each selective service registrant be classified and examined "as soon as practicable following his registration." For those who are no longer in school or college, this can best be done while they are still eighteen. This will enable those who are qualified for military service to plan intelligently their future careers in this respect. It will enable those found unqualified to get to work promptly on the education, training, or health services which can be of benefit to them.
The examinations given to selective service registrants provide a unique opportunity to measure all young men by a single yardstick, so that both they and their communities can judge their performance, and improve it where necessary.
Until now we have not taken advantage of this opportunity. Of late only a limited number of selective service registrants have actually been examined, usually 4 to 5 years after registering, and, except for a few pilot projects, there have been no follow-up measures for those who fail to meet the standards. Rejectees, for example, have normally not even been told the nature of their disqualifying conditions.
I must emphasize that early examination will not mean early induction. There will be no change in the present practice of calling older registrants for actual induction into the Armed Forces before younger ones are called.
Second, I am directing the Secretaries of Labor and of Health, Education, and Welfare to proceed immediately to initiate a manpower conservation program designed to meet, so far as resources permit, the needs of young men who fail to meet the tests given to selective service registrants.
I am heartened by the evidence produced by the Task Force that the overwhelming majority of young men failing the achievement tests, when made aware of their situation, were explicitly interested in obtaining the additional education and training they clearly need. I have no doubt that similar attitudes would be found among those failing the physical examination.
Those found unqualified for military service will not simply be ignored. Manpower Conservation Units will be established in local offices of the U.S. Employment Service where those who fail to meet the mental achievement standards will be counseled and referred to the full spectrum of available Federal-State services relating to manpower development, training, and education. Similar referral services will be developed for those failing to pass the physical examination. By these means young men will have explained to them the reasons for their rejection and the measures they themselves can take to obtain the education, training, or health services that they might need.
Clearly, the Task Force report has revealed a situation more serious and more extensive than has been our understanding. Nonetheless, it is equally clear that we have at present the resources needed to get started on the task of providing many of these young men a better opportunity for jobs and health.
It is particularly fortunate that in the past month Congress has passed two historic measures that provide greatly enlarged and improved programs in the fields of manpower training and vocational education. With these and other existing programs, for example, more than one-quarter of those who fail the achievement tests during fiscal year 1965 can be enrolled in literacy training, vocational training, or both. Some modest additional costs will be incurred by the eighteen-year-old examination and for the provision of added services. These costs can be met within the fiscal year 1965 budget I will submit shortly.
At the same time, the findings of the Task Force underscore emphatically the need for passage for the Youth Employment Act to provide additional job and training opportunities needed by many of these rejectees. Further, the National Service Corps would provide needed talent to work with rejectees in training and rehabilitation programs. These measures are, of course, now before Congress, and I will include funds for them in the forthcoming budget.