WHAT IT IS
The United States military has a mandatory draft system called the Selective Service System.
The draft is a lottery system, meaning you are required to sign up but may not be called upon to serve. [Selective Services System]
Currently, all military service is voluntary. The draft is on standby until it is needed again by the military. [The New York Times]
There are active federal requirements around the draft.
The Selective Service requires every U.S. male-born citizen, even if living abroad, and every male immigrant, documented or undocumented, to sign up for the draft when they turn 18-years-old. [Selective Service System]
Men are eligible for the draft between ages 18-25. [Encyclopedia Britannica]
It is against the law to not register. [Selective Service System]
WHY IT MATTERS
SOCIAL: Fake text messages circulated claiming the draft is active and that the individual had been selected for service. [TIME] Understanding U.S. law can better protect yourself against fraud.
HOW IT WORKS
An eligible male has between 30 days before his eighteenth birthday and 30 days after his birthday to register for the draft. [Selective Service System]
If one does not register, you may be prosecuted and face a fine of up to $250,000 and/or jail time of up to five years.
If you are an immigrant and do not register, you will not be eligible for citizenship. [USAGov]
Winning the lottery
Once signed up, you are not guaranteed to be drafted. A lottery picks who is called for service.
It starts with the pool of those aged 20, followed by 21, 22, 23, 24, and 25. Those aged 18 and 19 are less likely to be drafted. [TIME]
Once selected, a draftee has ten days to get a physical and report to a specified location.
After that, it is likely a draftee will be trained and deployed to a war zone. [Selective Service System]
Once chosen, you are legally required to serve in the military.
Veterans often say it is an honor to serve their country. Read an Afghanistan veteran's answer to the question, "Why Do I Serve?"
A majority of Americans respect military service and feel compelled to honor veterans. [Gallup]
Tens of thousands of men have "run away" to Canada or other countries to avoid the U.S. draft. [HISTORY]
Those that avoid the draft face legal consequences unless pardoned by the president. [The Chicago Tribune]
A physical will determine if a man is healthy enough to join the military. Cancer, deafness, and loss of a limb are among the 40+ health concerns that could prevent someone from being drafted. [The New York Times]
One notable medical waiver was granted during the Vietnam War to President Trump for bone spurs. After seeing an x-ray, many have questioned the legitimacy of the medical condition. [The New York Times]
WHERE WE ARE NOW
- Jan. 2020: The Trump administration authorized a drone strike killing prominent Iran military official, Qasem Soleimani. Iran responded with launching missals near two Iraqi military bases that housed U.S. military forces. [TIME]
- This caused many to fear that World War III had begun and that the administration would reinstate the draft. [The New York Times]
- Reinstating the draft requires approval from Congress and the president. [Selective Service System]
- Feb. 2019: A federal judge ruled a male-only military draft is unconstitutional. Changes to the draft to include females and transgendered individuals are unclear. [PBS]
- The U.S. Military has over 1.3 million active troops, so it is unlikely that the draft will be necessary any time soon. [The New York Times]
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
- The last U.S. draft was used during the Vietnam War. The draft was heavily criticized then, has been critiqued and has not been used since. [HISTORY]
- Have you signed up for the draft? How would you feel about being selected for military service without being able to object?
- Is the draft outdated or unconstitutional? Should the government continue to the draft when the military is already so big?
The draft is not unique to the United States. The first draft dates back to ancient Mesopotamia. The French Revolution saw the first modern draft in the 1790s. [HISTORY]