I AM deeply concerned about the fact that half of the young men who have been reporting for preinduction examinations under the Selective Service System are being found unqualified for military service; and that one out of every four is failing the mental tests, which means, for all practical purposes, that his mental attainments are below those which should be provided by a grade school education.
Last year, 306,073 young men, whose average age was 22-23 years, reported for initial draft examinations. One hundred fifty-one thousand five hundred and twelve of these (49.8%) were found unqualified for service. Seventy-five thousand forty-three (24.5%) failed the mental tests; it was determined that they lacked the mental equipment to be able to absorb military training within a reasonable time. The most common deficiency was apparently that they could not read or do simple arithmetic.
This group fortunately is not completely representative of all our young men of military service age. Large numbers volunteer for service each year and are found acceptable before being reached by their draft boards for examination. However, even allowing for these volunteers, experience indicates that one out of three young men in this country does not meet the minimum standards for peacetime military service.
This situation must not be permitted to continue or its implications to go unattended. These figures are an indictment and an ominous warning. Many of these recent rejectees now are looking for work and unable to find it. They make up a large proportion of the present alarming total of unemployed youth. A young man who does not have what it takes to perform military service is not likely to have what it takes to make a living. Today's military rejects include tomorrow's hard core unemployed.
In addition to those who fail the mental tests, an equal proportion fails the physical examination. The causes of medical disqualification are many, and not all are necessarily serious from the point of view of civilian occupations. But many conditions revealed by selective service examinations do limit a young man's ability to earn a living, are not infrequently the result of inadequate care, and could often be corrected by medical rehabilitation.
I am convinced, on the basis of this information, that a large-scale manpower conservation operation is both feasible and urgent, and could mean large savings in lives and dollars. To ignore this situation, to provide no follow-up training or rehabilitation program for these rejectees, would be the worst folly and irresponsibility. The programs of the U.S. Employment Service and of the administrators of the Manpower Development and Training Act should certainly be given special direction to deal with this special problem area.
Much more can and should be done, however. The Selective Service System provides us with a unique opportunity to identify those young men in our Nation who are-for reasons of education, or health, or both-not equipped to play their part in society. So far we have been wasting this opportunity. The youths are examined, rejected and sent home--and no more. The time has come--in view of the ever rising educational and training standards required for employment, and the ever rising rate of youth unemployment until it is now two or three times what is was when Selective Service began--to consider what greater use might be made of the opportunity and information the Selective Service System provides.
I am therefore establishing a Task Force on Manpower Conservation, consisting of the Secretaries of Defense, Labor, and Health, Education and Welfare and the Director of the Selective Service System, to prepare a program for the guidance, testing, counseling, training, and rehabilitation of youths found disqualified for military service under the Selective Service System because of failure to meet the physical or mental standards of the Armed Forces, and to make such recommendations as their survey of this situation suggests. The Secretary of Labor will serve as chairman of the Task Force, which will submit a preliminary report to me within thirty days, and a final report no later than January 1, 1964.
There are many questions which the Task Force should examine. For example:
--Inasmuch as the average age at which these tests are being given is 22-23, although registration under the Selective Service Act is required at age 18, the possibility of earlier and more general testing, as recommended to me by the Committee on Youth Employment, should be examined.
--The reasons why the rejection rate on the mental tests ranges from under 5% in some States to over 50% in others require serious appraisal.
--Results obtained under the current Manpower Development and Training Act should be compared with the Army's experience, during the severe manpower shortages of World War II, in establishing special training units for illiterates. Of 303,000 received for such training, 255,000 or 85 percent were graduated and went on to serve as regular enlisted personnel. A sample revealed that more than two-thirds went overseas; a third saw combat; a considerable number were decorated; a quarter rose to the rank of corporal or better.
I am hopeful that this Task Force will recommend whatever administrative or legislative action is required to utilize this excellent means of alleviating a disturbing situation.