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Remarks on Signing the Draft Reform Bill

November 26, 1969

Mr. Secretary, Members of the Senate and House, and members of the Youth Advisory Committee who are present here today:

I am here for the purpose of signing the draft reform bill, which has been passed by the House and the Senate.

In signing this bill, I think it might be well to refer to a statement that was made over 100 years ago by General Grant with regard to the draft that was then in effect. He said that the agony of suspense is worse than the effect of the law itself.

As far as this draft reform bill is concerned, it does not remove all of the inequity of the draft, because there will be inequity as long as any of our young men have to serve when others do not have to serve. But the agony of suspense and uncertainty which has hung over our younger generation for 7 years can now be reduced to 1 year, and other very needed reforms in the draft can be made by Executive order.

In signing the bill, I want to impress upon everybody here that while the administration took the initiative through the Secretary of Defense's recommendation in sending this bill to the Congress, it could not be here for signature by the President had it not had strong bipartisan support by members of the Democratic Party in the House and the Senate, as well as members of the Republican Party. This is truly a bipartisan measure and the credit should be taken by both parties as the bill signing occurs.

Finally, I would say that looking to the future, while this measure will remove a great number of the inequities and particularly remove the uncertainty to which I refer, we shall not be satisfied until we finally can have the system which I advocated during the campaign of a completely volunteer armed force. We cannot move to that now because of the requirements for armed services. That is, however, our ultimate goal.

Now I will sign the measure.

Note: The President spoke at 10:11 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. As enacted, the bill is Public Law 91-124 (83 Stat. 220).

On November 26, 1969, the White House Press Office released a news briefing on the bill by Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird and Assistant to the President Peter M. Flanigan. A fact sheet on the new draft selection system is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 5, P. 1662).

Proclamation 3945 and Executive Orders 11497 and 11498 implement the draft reform legislation.

Richard Nixon, Remarks on Signing the Draft Reform Bill Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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