The Military Selective Service Act: How Does It Work?

The Selective Service System in its current form and gave it a two fold mission.

  1. Delivers manpower to the Armed Forces in time of emergency
  2. Administers an Alternative Service Program for Conscientious Objectors

Registration Requirements
Who gets drafted now?
Authority for the President to induct (draft) men into the Armed Forces expired in 1973. The draft can only be reinstated after the Military Selective Service Act is amended by Congress.
Women are not required to register with the Selective Service System.

What does it have to do with me?
Section 3 of the Military Selective Service Act states that male U.S. Citizens and male aliens residing in the U.S., who are between the ages of 18 and 26, are required to register. Men born on or after January 1, 1960, must register with Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthday.
If you do not know if you should register, or you can not remember if you already have registered, call 1-888-655-1825 or go to
Penalties - Educational, Job Training, and Federal Employment

So what? Big deal. What if I don’t register?
Once you reach the age of 26, you can’t register. Men who are not registered with Selective Service may not qualify for the following:

  • Pell Grants
  • Supplemental Education
  • Opportunity Grants, Federal College Work-study, Federal Perkins Loans, Federal Family
  • Education Loans, and Federal Direct Student Loans.
  • Men may also be disqualified for benefits associated with the Workforce Investment Act.
  • In addition, men who do not register may not qualify for Federal Employment.

If you do not register you will not be eligible for these benefits. Also, many state and local governments require Selective Service compliance for employment or educational funds.

Penalties - Department of Justice
Well, can anything else happen to me if I don’t register and I’m supposed to?
Yes! If you fail to comply with the Military Selective Service act you could be prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice. Failing to register as required is a felony. Possible penalties include:

  • A fine of up to $250,000
  • A prison term up to five years
  • A fine and imprisonment

A Matter of Fairness - What’s the point of all of this?
Fairness. Every man who fails to register in not only breaking the law, he is directly increasing the likelihood of involuntary service for those who are registered, should the draft resume. People in the U.S. have rights, but they also have the responsibility of serving the Nation. Registration is each man’s responsibility.

How to Register

  • By initiating a registration on-line through the Agency’s web site at
  • By filling out a Selective Service registration form at any U.S. Post Office
  • By completing a registration reminder postcard which he may receive in the mail shortly before his 18th birthday
  • By telephone, if he receives a registration card in the mail from Selective Service with a PIN number allowing telephone registration
  • At a High School participating in Selective Service’s Registrar Program
  • At any U.S. Embassy or consular office
  • By agreeing to be registered when completing a Federal student financial aid application or when applying for entry into a Federal job training program
  • By completing the Immigration and Naturalization Service, “Application to Adjust Permanent Status”, Form I-485 or the State Department Visa Application Form OF230

History of the Selective
In 1863, a law was enacted providing for an All-Federal Service
First Draft Laws. President Lincoln needed 300,000 troops for nine months of service. He asked for a certain number from each state. Options for commutation or substitution were permitted.

In 1917 (During World War I) a comprehensive draft law allowed for conscription for duration of hostilities

The Draft
Before the United Sates' entry into World War II the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 became the first peacetime draft. About 10 million men drafted and served. The Act expired in 1947, but was reinstated in 1948 due to military manpower shortages.

The Korean Conflict prompted Congress to make the Selective Service System a permanent agency of the U.S. Government. These laws were responsible for the evolution of the draft into a permanent part of the military manpower procurement structure.

Facts about the last darft:

  • The last man inducted into the Army entered the draft on June 31, 1973.
  • The Draft provided 1.5 million men during the Korean conflict
  • The draft continued through the Vietnam War 1964 - 1973 providing over 1.8 million men
  • The draft ended on June 30, 1973
  • Registration ended on March 29, 1975
  • 1980 - President Carter reinstated registration after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan

Problems witht eh last draft:

  • Occupations such as pharmacists, journalists, lawyers, and teachers were exempt from serving if they were from the South
  • World War II - guidelines for draft interpreted in different ways as there was unequal treatment of registrants in various parts of the country.

The Fair System: History - Vietnam War Issues

  • College students were deferred
  • Political influence resulted in preferential treatment
  • Minorities and poor were drafted disproportionately

System Major Reforms
These reforms are in effect today. Students would be deferred until the end of the semester, or the end of the year, if they are seniors in college. Men aged 18 and 19 will be the last inductees taken if a draft were initiated. For a high school student, he is postponed until he graduates or reaches the age of 20, or if he is in his last academic year, until he completes it - even if he is 20.
Restructuring of some categories of deferments, particular student deferments resulting in fewer reasons for excusing a man from service and shorter deferment periods
A lottery based on birth dates began in 1969
Changes in the first age group: Men reaching age 20 first, then 21,22, 23, 24, 25, 19, and lastly 18

Classification Process
Registrant files paperwork stating nature of claim
Board reviews claim - registrant may appear to describe his circumstances
The board votes on the claim
Classification Process
Example: Conscientious Objector
Religious, moral, or ethical beliefs prohibit him from participating in war
Usually assigned to non-combat duty or civilian service

Classification Process
Example - Ministerial Student
Those studying to be a priest, minister, or rabbi
Allowed to stay in school if making satisfactory progress
Individuals who are supporting someone and whose absence would result in unreasonable hardship on this person

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Please answer the following questions:

1. Explain what a president must do to call a draft?

2. How do people register for the draft?

3. What happens to those who refuse to register for the draft or serve?

4. How is someone exempted from the draft?

5. Through the years, what problems have occurred with the draft?

6. How is registering for the draft like jury duty?

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