54. National Security Study Memorandum 781

  • TO
    • The Director of the Selective Service
    • The Secretary of Defense
    • The Secretary of Commerce
    • The Secretary of Labor
    • The Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare
    • The Director of the Bureau of the Budget
    • The Director of the Office of Emergency Planning
    • Review of U.S. Deferment and Exemption Policy

The President has directed a review of the guidelines, standards, and procedures for deferments and exemptions.

Standards for Deferment and Exemptions. The present standards for deferment and exemption of Selective Service registrants should be evaluated. The objective and effects of each present standard should be analyzed with particular emphasis on (a) occupational deferments, (b) educational deferments. Alternative deferment and exemption standards should be developed for consideration consistent with the objectives of the President’s Message to Congress on Amendment of the Selective Service Act of 1967.2
Guidelines for Deferment and Exemption. The National Security Council and Selective Service guidelines on deferments and exemptions should be evaluated in terms of their effectiveness at implementing the standards of deferment and exemption policy. Where necessary, new National Security Council advice or Selective Service guidelines on deferments should be developed for consideration.
Procedures for Deferments and Exemptions. The procedures of the Selective Service system should be analyzed in terms of (a) any inconsistency in the treatment of individuals and (b) any uncertainties of individuals about their status. Changes in existing procedures to maintain consistent treatment of individuals and reduce uncertainty should be formulated where appropriate. In particular, examination of all registrants prior to age 19 should be evaluated, as a measure that could reduce the uncertainty of individuals who do not meet the medical standards of the Armed Forces.
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This study will be conducted by an Ad Hoc Group. The Group’s Chairman will be chosen by the Director of the Selective Service. The Group’s personnel will be drawn from the Selective Service and other addressee agencies. Administrative support for the study will be provided by the Selective Service and the other addressee agencies. The report of the Ad Hoc Group will be completed and submitted to the President’s Assistant to National Security Affairs by December 1, 1969.3

Henry A. Kissinger
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Subject Files, Box 365, NSSMs, Nos. 43–103. No classification marking.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 53.
  3. Kissinger, in a memorandum dated December 26, informed the President of the preliminary results of the NSSM 78 review, which had found serious inequities in the Selective Service system caused by a lottery that was in fact not random and by the variable practices of local draft boards. Nixon wrote the following instruction, addressed to Kissinger and Peter M. Flanigan, Assistant to the President, on the memorandum: “Very important to clean this up and to publicize the corrections.” A handwritten note on a December 29 covering memorandum to Flanigan with the annotated memorandum attached indicates that Kissinger saw the President’s comments. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 319, Subject Files, Draft Reform [1969–1970])