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Is The Military Draft Coming Back?

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Is the military draft coming back 2024

I get it. The thought of the military draft coming back is enough to make anyone break out in a cold sweat. I mean, the idea of being forced to serve in the armed forces, leaving behind your family, friends, and the life you’ve built? It’s the stuff of nightmares, right?

But here’s the thing: the military draft hasn’t been used in the United States since 1973. That’s right, it’s been over 50 years since the last time anyone was drafted into the military. So why are we even talking about it now?

Well, the truth is, the Selective Service System, which is the agency responsible for maintaining a list of potential draftees, is still very much alive and well. It’s required by law for all men between the ages of 18 and 25 to register with the Selective Service, just in case the draft is ever reinstated.

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Is the Military Draft Coming Back?

The idea of the military draft coming back has been making waves lately. With tensions rising in various parts of the world, some are wondering if the U.S. will reinstate mandatory conscription. As someone who has studied this topic extensively, I can tell you that the chances of the draft returning anytime soon are slim to none. The current Congress isn’t even considering proposals to bring it back. But let’s dive into the details of what the Selective Service System is, how a potential draft would work, and who is required to register, just in case.

What Is the Selective Service System?

The Selective Service System is the agency that maintains information on those potentially subject to military conscription. Most people aren’t aware that virtually all male U.S. citizens and male immigrants between the ages of 18 and 25 are required by law to register.

The report found that Selective Service is “a mystery to most Americans,” who were not aware that all men ages 18 to 25 have a legal obligation to register in case of a draft. Although the draft was abolished in 1973, the Selective Service registration requirement was resumed in 1980, when after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, a capability to conscript was again deemed critical to the national defense. The system for registering for Selective Service is passive: it occurs when you apply for your driver’s license or federal student aid. Most American males aren’t even aware that they’re registered for the draft.

How Does the Draft Work?

If Congress and the President authorized a draft:

  1. A lottery would be conducted based on birthdays.
  2. Draftees would be examined for mental, physical, and moral fitness for military service.
  3. Those who pass would receive induction orders and have 10 days to report to a local Military Entrance Processing Station.
  4. At the station, draftees would take the Oath of Enlistment and enter the armed forces.

Who Is Required to Register for Selective Service?

Almost all male U.S. citizens and immigrants ages 18 through 25 are required to register with Selective Service. This includes those born in the U.S. and those naturalized as citizens.

The report found that Selective Service is “a mystery to most Americans,” who were not aware that all men ages 18 to 25 have a legal obligation to register in case of a draft.

The penalties for failing to register can be severe, including a fine of up to $250,000, imprisonment for up to five years, and denial of federal and state benefits like student loans, government jobs, and job training. Immigrant men can be denied citizenship for failing to register.

The History of the Military Draft in the United States

The U.S. has a long history with conscription, dating back to the Civil War. But the draft as we know it today has its roots in the 20th century.

The Civil War Draft

Both the Union and Confederate armies used conscription during the Civil War. The Confederacy passed the first conscription law in American history in 1862, followed closely by the Union Enrollment Act of 1863. These laws were controversial, with riots breaking out in opposition. They also allowed wealthier citizens to avoid service by paying commutation money or hiring substitutes.

The World Wars Draft

The Selective Service Act of 1917 authorized a draft for World War I. It required men aged 21 to 30 to register. After the U.S. entered World War II in 1941, a new Selective Training and Service Act required all men 18 to 64 to register. Over 10 million men were inducted into the military through the draft during WWII. Conscription continued through the late 1940s for the occupations of Germany and Japan.

The Vietnam War Draft

The draft played a major role in providing manpower for the Vietnam War. The Selective Service System expanded the draft to include men between 18 and 26. Draftees accounted for about 30% of combat deaths in Vietnam. The draft became increasingly unpopular as the war dragged on, with many burning their draft cards in protest.

The End of the Draft and the All-Volunteer Force

In 1973, as U.S. involvement in Vietnam was winding down, conscription ended and the U.S. shifted to an all-volunteer force. However, the requirement for young men to register with Selective Service remained in place in case a draft was ever needed again.

The United States has not had a draft since 1973. Congress and the president would have to authorize a draft.

Since then, the U.S. military has relied on volunteers to fill its ranks, with no serious push to return to conscription. But the Selective Service System remains in place if the draft is ever deemed necessary.

Current State of the U.S. Military and Selective Service

The U.S. military today is a far cry from the conscripted forces of the past century. Let’s look at the current makeup of the armed forces and the status of the Selective Service System.

Size and Composition of the Current U.S. Military

As of 2023, the U.S. military has about 1.4 million active duty personnel. The Army is the largest branch, followed by the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. The military is an all-volunteer force, with conscription not used since the Vietnam War. Women make up about 17% of the active duty force. Minorities account for about 43% of all active duty members.

The Selective Service System Today

While the draft ended in 1973, the Selective Service System remains in place. Its mission is to maintain the ability to provide manpower to the Department of Defense if a draft is ever deemed necessary.

According to the database of bills that have been proposed in the current session of Congress, only a handful even mention the Selective Service and merely in the context of keeping the agency funded.

In recent years, there have been efforts to eliminate Selective Service registration, arguing it’s an unnecessary burden since a draft is unlikely. But for now, the system remains in place.

Registering for Selective Service

By law, virtually all male U.S. citizens and immigrants ages 18 to 25 must register with Selective Service. This can be done online, by mail, or at the post office.

The system for registering for Selective Service is passive: it occurs when you apply for your driver’s license or federal student aid. Most American males aren’t even aware that they’re registered for the draft.

Failure to register is a felony punishable by a fine and imprisonment. Those who don’t register can also be denied federal student aid, federal jobs, and job training.

Factors That Could Lead to Reinstating the Draft

While bringing back the draft seems unlikely now, there are scenarios where it could be considered. Let’s examine a few potential triggers.

Major Conflict or War

A large-scale war requiring a rapid influx of troops is the most likely scenario for reinstating the draft. If the U.S. found itself in a prolonged conflict and was unable to maintain adequate troop levels with volunteers, Congress and the President could authorize a draft.

Will there be a military draft in 2023? Probably not. While world events such as the war in Ukraine and an increasing U.S. presence in Poland continue to evolve, there has been no indication that a military draft will take place in 2023.

However, short of World War III, it’s doubtful a conflict would be large enough to necessitate conscription. The U.S. military is well-staffed and equipped to handle the conflicts it’s currently engaged in.

Insufficient Volunteer Recruitment

If the military consistently fell short of its recruitment goals, there could be pressure to reinstate the draft. However, recruitment incentives and increased pay have effectively maintained adequate volunteer rates, even during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The military has also relaxed some entry requirements, such as allowing more recruits without high school diplomas and offering waivers for some medical conditions and criminal records.

National Emergency or Crisis

A catastrophic event like a major terrorist attack or natural disaster could create a push for a draft if it were deemed necessary for national defense. However, the U.S. military has significant reserve forces that can be called up in such emergencies. Additionally, state National Guard units can assist with disaster relief and maintaining order. It would take an unprecedented crisis for a draft to be considered in this scenario.

Implications and Consequences of Bringing Back the Draft

Reinstating the draft would have far-reaching effects on society. Here are some of the potential impacts:

Social and Political Impact

A draft would likely be very unpopular, based on the backlash seen in the Vietnam era. There could be significant protests and social unrest. It would also raise questions of fairness and equality. Would a draft fall disproportionately on lower-income and minority communities? How would exemptions and deferments be handled? Politically, reinstating the draft would be a huge risk for any administration or Congress. It could lead to a massive backlash at the polls.

Economic Consequences

Conscription takes young people out of the workforce and into the military. This could lead to labor shortages in some industries. It would also disrupt the lives and careers of those drafted. They would have to put their educations and jobs on hold, with no guarantee of being able to pick up where they left off. There would also be increased government spending to train and equip a larger military. This could lead to budget cuts in other areas or increased taxes.

Effect on Military Readiness and Effectiveness

Draftees may not be as motivated or committed as volunteers. This could affect morale and unit cohesion. There would also be a significant burden on the military to train and integrate a large influx of conscripts. This could temporarily reduce readiness as units get new members up to speed. However, a draft could also bring a wider cross-section of society into the military, providing a broader range of skills and perspectives. And it would ensure the military has the manpower it needs for sustained operations.

A draft places militarism on a leash. Currently we live in a highly militarized society but one which most of us largely perceive to be “at peace.” This is one of the great counterintuitive realities of the draft. A draft doesn’t increase our militarization. It decreases it.

Ultimately, the effectiveness of a drafted force would depend largely on the ability of military leadership to mold them into a cohesive and capable fighting force. But it would undoubtedly be a major challenge.

Alternatives to Reinstating the Draft

If the military found itself short on manpower, there are alternatives to bringing back the draft. Here are a


So, is the military draft coming back? The short answer is: probably not. While the Selective Service System is still in place, and all men between the ages of 18 and 25 are required to register, the chances of a draft actually happening are pretty slim.