Selective Service System is a means by which the
States maintains information on those potentially subject
All males between the ages of 18 to 25 are
required by law to register within 30 days of their 18th birthday .
As of the end of 2008, the names and addresses of over 14 million
men are on file.
Registration for Selective Service is also required for various
federal programs and benefits, including student loans, job
training, federal employment, and naturalization.
The Selective Service System provides the names of all registrants
for inclusion in the JAMRS
Consolidated Recruitment Database. The names are distributed to the
Services for recruiting purposes on a quarterly basis.
The Selective Service Act
(40 Stat. 76) was passed by the 65th United States Congress
May 18, 1917 creating the Selective Service System. The Act gave
the President the power to draft men for military service. All
males aged 21 to 30 were required to register for military service
for a service period of 12 months; the age limit was later raised
in August of 1918 to a maximum age of 45. The draft was
discontinued in 1920.
Training and Service Act of 1940
was passed by the 76th United States Congress
September 16, 1940, establishing the first peacetime conscription
in United States history. It
required all males between the ages of 18 to 65 to register for
Selective Service. It originally conscripted all males aged 21 to
36 for a service period of 12 months, but was later increased to
males aged 18 to 45 for a military service period of 18 months.
Upon declaration of war, the service period was extended to last
the duration of the war plus a 6-month service in the Organized
Reserves. The draft was ended in 1946 and the original Act was
allowed to expire in 1947.
The number of volunteers in the post-war period was not enough,
however, and the Selective Service Act of 1948 was passed to
reintroduce conscription. All males 18 years and older had to
register for Selective Service. All males between the ages of 19 to
26 were eligible to be drafted for a service requirement of 21
months. This was followed by a commitment for either 12 consecutive
months of active service or 36 consecutive months of service in the
reserves, with a statutory term of military service set at a
minimum of five years total. Conscripts could volunteer for
military service in the Regular Army for a term of four years or
the Organized Reserves for a term of six years. Due to deep postwar
budget cuts, only 100,000 conscripts were raised in 1948. In 1950,
the number of conscripts was greatly expanded to meet the demands
of the Korean War
The outbreak of the Korean War forced the creation of the Universal
Military Training and Service Act of 1951. This lowered the draft
age from 19 to 18½, increased active-duty service time from 21 to
24 months, and set the statutory term of military service at a
minimum of eight years. Students attending a college or training
program full time could request an exemption. A Universal Military
Training clause was inserted that would have made all males
obligated to perform 12 months of military service and training if
the Act was amended by later legislation. Despite successive
attempts over the next several years, such legislation was never
passed. President John
set up an Executive Order in 1963 granting
an exemption from conscription for married men. President Lyndon Baines Johnson
this exemption by another Executive Order in 1965.
The Military Selective Service Act of 1967 expanded the ages of
conscription to the ages of 18 to 35. It still granted student
deferments, but ended them upon either the student's completion of
a four-year degree or his 24th birthday, whichever came first. On
November 26, 1969 President Richard Milhous Nixon
amendment that established conscription based on random selection.
The first "draft lottery
held on December 1, 1969.
In 1971, the Military Selective Service Act of 1967 was further
amended to make registration compulsory; all males had to register
within a period 30 days before and 29 days after their 18th
birthday. Registrants were classified 1-A
(eligible for military service), 1-AO
(Conscientious Objector available for non-combatant military
service), and 1-O
available for alternate community service). Student deferments were
ended, except for Divinity students, who received a
Selective Service classification. Also, draft
board membership requirements were reformed: minimum age of board
members was dropped from 30 to 18, members over 65 or who had
served on the board for 20 or more years had to retire, and
membership had to proportionally reflect the ethnic and cultural
makeup of their communities.
On Jan. 27, 1973, Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird
announced the creation of an
all-volunteer armed forces, negating the need for the military
On March 29, 1975, President Gerald Ford
signed Proclamation 4360, Terminating Registration Procedures Under
Military Selective Service Act, eliminating the registration
requirement for all 18-25 year old male citizens. Then on July 2,
1980, President Jimmy Carter
Proclamation 4771, Registration Under the Military Selective
Service Act, retroactively re-establishing the Selective Service
registration requirement for all 18-26 year old male citizens born
on or after January 1, 1960. Only men born between March 29, 1957,
and December 31, 1959, were completely exempt from Selective
Service registration.The first registrations after Proclamation
4771 took place on Monday, July 21, 1980, for those men born in
January, February and March 1960 at U.S. Post Offices
Wednesdays and Thursdays were reserved for men born in the later
quarters of the year, and registration for men born in 1961 began
the following week.
Who must register
Under current law, all male U.S. citizens are required to register
with Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthday. In
addition, foreign males between the ages of 18 and 26 living in the
United States must register. This includes permanent residents
(holders of Green Cards), refugees
, and undocumented/illegal
. Foreign males in the United States as lawful
-immigrants (international students, visitors,
diplomats, etc.) are not required to register. Failure to register
as required is grounds for denying a petition for US
In the current registration system a man cannot indicate that he is
a conscientious objector
to war when registering, but he can make such a claim when being
drafted. Some men choose to write on the registration card "I am a
conscientious objector to war" to document their conviction, even
though the government will not have such a classification until
there is a draft. Several religious, nonsectarian, and secular
organizations allow conscientious objectors to file a written
record stating their beliefs.
In 1987, Congress ordered the Selective Service System to put in
place a system capable of drafting "persons qualified for practice
or employment in a health care
", if such a special-skills draft should be ordered
by Congress. In response, Selective Service published plans for the
"Health Care Personnel Delivery System" (HCPDS) in 1989 and has had
them ready ever since. The concept underwent a preliminary field
exercise in Fiscal Year 1998, followed by a more extensive
nationwide readiness exercise in Fiscal Year 1999. The HCPDS plans
include women and men age 20–54 in 57 job categories.
Men who were female at birth and have changed sex are not required
to register. There is no consistent policy as to whether
registration is allowed
when not required. Failure to
register can cause problems such as denial of Pell Grants, even
when registration is not allowed.
Failure to register
In 1980, men who knew they were required to register and did not do
so could face up to five years in jail or a fine up to $50,000 if
convicted. The potential fine was later increased to $250,000.
Despite these possible penalties, government records indicate that
from 1980 through 1986 there were only 20 indictments, of which 19
were instigated in part by self-publicized and self-reported
non-registration. As one of the elements of the offense, the
government must prove that a violation of the Military Selective
Service Act was knowing and willful. This is almost impossible
unless the prospective defendant has publicly stated that he knew
he was required to register or report for induction, or unless he
has been visited by the FBI, personally served with notice to
register or report for induction, and given another chance to
comply. The last prosecution for non-registration was in January
1986, after which many believed the government declined to continue
enforcing that law when it became apparent that the trials were
themselves causing a decline in registration. Unlike the situation
at the time when the draft was in effect, routine checks for
identification virtually never include a request for draft
As an alternative method of encouraging registration, federal
legislators passed laws requiring that to receive financial aid,
federal grants and loans, certain government benefits, eligibility
for most federal employment, and (if the person is an immigrant)
eligibility for citizenship, a young man had to be registered (or
had to have been registered, if they are over 26 but were required
to register between 18 and 26) with Selective Service. Those who
were required to register, but failed to do so before they turn 26,
are no longer allowed to register, and thus may be permanently
barred from federal jobs and other benefits, unless they can show
to the Selective Service that their failure was not knowing and
states, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, Northern Mariana
Islands, and Virgin Islands, have passed laws requiring registration in order
for men 18-25 to be eligible for programs that vary on a
per-jurisdiction basis but typically include driver's licenses,
state-funded higher education benefits, and state government
Alaska also requires registration in order to receive
an Alaska Permanent Fund
dividend. Eight states (Connecticut, Indiana, Nebraska, Oregon,
Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming) have no such
requirements, though Indiana does give men 18-25 the option of
registering with Selective Service when obtaining a drivers license
or an identification card.
There are some third-party organized efforts to compensate
financial aid for those students losing benefits, including the
Fund for Education and Training
(FEAT) and Student Aid
Fund for Non-registrants
Although the Selective Service System is authorized by the Selective Service Act
, some dispute
the constitutionality of the act, claiming the law violates the
Amendment to the United States Constitution
of the U.S. Constitution
by providing for
military conscription. Opponents of the law contend that the draft
constitutes "involuntary servitude", under the amendment, which
- Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a
punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly
convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place
subject to their jurisdiction.
This has not been supported by the courts; as the Supreme Court
said in Butler v.
- The amendment was adopted with reference to conditions
existing since the foundation of our government, and the term
'involuntary servitude' was intended to cover those forms of
compulsory labor akin to African slavery which, in practical
operation, would tend to produce like undesirable results.
It introduced no novel doctrine with respect of services always
treated as exceptional, and certainly was not intended to interdict
enforcement of those duties which individuals owe to the state,
such as services in the army, militia, on the jury, etc.
Constitutionalists have since noted, however, that such "owed
duties" also preceded the established fundamental precepts of
"inalienable rights" to life and liberty, which would presumably
supersede them, and by which the states originally declared the
principal basis for their independence from Great Britain in 1776;
accordingly, American governments could derive no just power or
authority to claim impose duties that interfered
rights, since otherwise this would provide government with a
"loophole" for doing so. Therefore while the court clarified that
the draft did not violate the 13th Amendment per se, it failed to
address either the 9th Amendment regarding such rights which were
retained by the People, despite not being specifically enumerated
in the Constitution; or the 10th Amendment safeguards against the
enlargement of federal powers, over those specifically delegated
Exemption of women
Currently, the law exempts women from registration. The issue of women
being exempted was addressed and approved in 1981 by the United States
Supreme Court in Rostker
, with the Court holding
"The existence of the combat restrictions clearly indicates the
basis for Congress' decision to exempt women from registration. The
purpose of registration was to prepare for a draft of combat
troops. Since women are excluded from combat, Congress concluded
that they would not be needed in the event of a draft, and
therefore decided not to register them."
At the request of President Bill
, the Department of Defense reviewed the issue, but
concluded that the exclusion remains justifiable in light of past
Structure and operation
The Selective Service System is an independent
within the Executive Branch
of the Federal government of
the United States
The Director of the Selective Service System reports directly to
of the United States of America
During peacetime (current structure), the agency comprises a
National Headquarters, three Regional Headquarters and a Data
Management Center. During a mobilization (draft), the agency would
greatly expand by activating an additional 56 State Headquarters,
400+ Area Offices as well as 40+ Alternative Service Offices.
Mobilization (draft) procedures
- Congress and the President authorize a draft:
The president claims a crisis has occurred which requires more
troops than the volunteer military can supply. Congress passes and
the President signs legislation which revises the Military
Selective Service Act to initiate a draft for military
- The Lottery: A lottery based on birthdays
determines the order in which registered men are called up by
Selective Service. The first to be called, in a sequence determined
by the lottery, will be men whose 20th birthday falls during the
calendar year the induction takes place, followed, if needed, by
those aged 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 19 and 18 year olds (in that
- All parts of the Selective Service System are
activated: The Agency activates and orders its State
Directors and Reserve Force Officers to report for duty.
- Physical, mental and moral evaluation of
registrants: Registrants with low lottery numbers receive
examination orders and are ordered to report for a physical,
mental, and moral evaluation at a Military Entrance Processing
Station (MEPS) to determine whether they are fit for military
service. Once he is notified of the results of the evaluation, a
registrant will be given 10 days to file a claim for exemption,
postponement, or deferment.
- Local and appeal boards activated and induction notices
sent: Local and Appeal Boards will begin processing
registrant claims/appeals. Those who passed the military evaluation
will receive induction orders. An inductee will have 10 days to
report to a local Military Entrance Processing Station for
- First draftees are inducted: According to
current plans, Selective Service must deliver the first inductees
to the military within 193 days from the onset of a crisis.
If the agency were to mobilize and conduct a draft, a lottery would
be held in full view of the public. This would be covered by the
media. First, all days of the year are placed into a capsule at
random. Second, the numbers 1-365 (1-366 for lotteries held with
respect to a leap year
) are placed into a
second capsule. These two capsules are certified for procedure,
sealed in a drum, and stored.
In the event of a draft, the drums are taken out of storage and
inspected to make sure they have not been tampered with. The
lottery then takes place, and each date is paired with a number at
random. For example, if January 16 is picked from the "date"
capsule and the number 59 picked from the "number" capsule, all men
of age 20 born on January 16 will be the 59th group to receive
induction notices. This process continues until all dates are
matched with a number.
Should all dates be used, the Selective Service will then conscript
men at the age of 21, then 22, 23, 24, and 25. Men ages 18 and 19
are not likely to be inducted to the system. Once all dates are
paired, the dates will be sent to Selective Service System's Data
If a draft were held, local boards would classify registrants to
determine whether they were exempt from military service. According
to US Code of Federal
Title 32, Chapter XVI, Sec. 1630.2, men would be
sorted into the following categories:
||Available for unrestricted military service.
available for noncombatant military
||Member of the Armed Forces of the United States, the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration or the Public Health Service.
||Deferment for certain members of a reserve component or student
taking military training.
||Exemption of certain members of a reserve component or student
taking military training.
||Registrants not subject to processing for induction
||Conscientious objector to
all military service. A registrant must establish to the
satisfaction of the board that his request for exemption from
combatant and noncombatant military training and service in the
Armed Forces is based upon moral, ethical or religious beliefs
which play a significant role in his life and that his objection to
participation in war is not confined to a particular war.
||Conscientious objector to all military service (separated). A
registrant separated from the Armed Forces due to objection to
participation in both combatant and noncombatant training and
service in the Armed Forces. The registrant is still required to
serve in alternative service.
||Conscientious objector ordered to perform alternative service.
||Registrant available for military service, but qualified only
in case of war or national emergency. Usually given to registrants
with medical conditions that were limiting but not disabling
(examples: high blood pressure, mild muscular or skeletal injuries
or disorders, skin disorders, severe allergies, etc.). Class
discontinued in December 1971.
||Registrant deferred in support of the national interest.
||Registrant deferred because of occupation in a war industry
(Defense contractor or reserved occupation).
||Registrant deferred because of study preparing for the
||Registrant deferred because of collegiate study.
||Registrant deferred because of hardship to dependents.
||Registrant deferred because of hardship to dependents
||Registrant who has completed military service.
||Registrant who has performed military service for a foreign
||Official deferred by law.
||Alien or dual national.
||Minister of religion.
||Registrant not acceptable for military service. To be eligible
for Class 4-F, a registrant must have been found not qualified for
service in the Armed Forces by a Military
Entrance Processing Station under the established physical,
mental, or moral standards. The standards of physical fitness that
would be used in a future draft would come from AR 40-501.
||Registrant exempted from service because of the death of his
parent or sibling while serving in the Armed Forces or whose parent
or sibling is in a captured or missing in action status.
||Registrant who has completed alternative service in lieu of
||Registrant who is over the age of liability (26) or if
previously deferred (35)
When to register.
- Benefits and Programs Linked to Registration, from the
Selective Service System website
- Holbrook, Heber A. The Crisis Years: 1940 and 1941, The
Pacific Ship and Shore Historical Review, 4 July 2001. p. 2.
- Facts on File 1980 Yearbook p.493
- Brethren Witness, Peace and Justice,
- How does the Military Selective Service Act apply to
individuals who have had a sex change?
- HUDSON'S FTM resource guide.
- State/Commonwealth Information from the Selective
Service System website
- Section 1 of the
Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
- Butler v. Perry
- Past Directors Of The Selective Service System