The military draft may sound like a thing of the past, but as political tension grows in the United States, some citizens have a growing concern about an upcoming war – and the draft being reinstated as a result.
The United States military draft started in 1940 with the Selective Training and Service Act. Over the years, the draft was used to select military personnel during the Korean War, Vietnam War, and eventually WWII.
However, there hasn’t been a draft since, and people are wondering if – and when – it will make its return. There’s a lot of misinformation about the Selective Service draft circulating these days. In fact, the Selective Service site crashed earlier this year because of an influx of visitors after #WWIII began trending on Twitter.
Due to the spread of misinformation, our website is experiencing high traffic volumes at this time. If you are attempting to register or verify registration, please check back later today as we are working to resolve this issue. We appreciate your patience.
— Selective Service (@SSS_gov) January 3, 2020
The hashtag was largely due to the reaction people had after President Trump ordered a US airstrike to kill Qasem Soleimani, major general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
It’s been months since the Selective Service site crashed, but people are still wondering about the possibility of an upcoming draft. Will it happen? And if so, how will it work?
What is the Draft?
Before jumping into the details of the draft, let’s go over the basics. The United States Military Draft is referred to as the Selective Service. All men from the ages of 18 to 26 are legally required to register for the draft. If the draft is activated again at any point, members will be selected through the Lottery and must enroll in the military.
Don’t worry – there is not currently a draft, so you can’t be called to war anytime soon. That can change, however, and here’s what you need to know if it does.
When Do Drafts Happen?
A draft can happen when there is a war or national emergency happening and there are not enough active, voluntary military personnel. There is no active draft right now.
The Selective Service System is conducting business as usual. In the event that a national emergency necessitates a draft, Congress and the President would need to pass official legislation to authorize a draft. pic.twitter.com/M4tY2dLoX1
— Selective Service (@SSS_gov) January 3, 2020
How Do Drafts Work?
A draft is when the citizens are involuntarily called to go to war. Eligible citizens are chosen based on age, gender, and citizenship. If a draft were to happen again, there are six things that would need to happen first, according to the Selective Service.
- Military Selective Service Act amended – This act would grant the President of the United States power to hold a draft
- Selective Service personnel report for duty – To prepare for the draft
- The Lottery takes place to select members of the draft – This event has in-person attendees, is shown on TV, and live streamed to show. This is a random selection based on birthdays and numbers.
- Selected members report to the local Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) – This is where they will be evaluated and inducted or released to go home.
- Each registrant has to go through a physical, mental, and moral evaluation at this time.
- Registrants can file claims for postponement, deferment, or exemption if there is a reason they cannot fulfil their duties.
- Local and Appeal Boards look into claims – If a registrant filed a claim for why they cannot serve at this time, it will be evaluated at this stage.
- Individuals who are “available for service” are inducted and enter into the military. These personnel are enrolled and must report for duty.
- Getting a driver’s license (automatically registers you in certain states)
- Filling out the SSS Form 1 online at www.sss.gov
- Returning a mailback form (men may receive these in the mail upon turning 18)
- FAFSA form (there should be a registration box)
Who Is Exempt From Drafts?
If you are selected in the lottery to be drafted into the US Military, that doesn’t automatically mean you will be inducted and report for duty. Certain individuals are exempt from being selected by the draft, including:
- Men outside the 18-26 age range
- Dual citizens
- Elected officials while in office
Upon reporting to the MEPS induction, selected members can file for exemption, as well. At this time, there is a physical, mental, and moral evaluation that takes place, so individuals who do not pass the evaluation are sent home, thus not having to report for duty at that time.
Who can postpone from the draft?
There are certain people who can postpone being drafted, depending on their current circumstances. For instance, high school and college students are eligible for postponement if they are selected in the lottery. High schoolers have until they graduate or until they turn 20 years old, while college students are able to complete their current semester or finish out the school year if they are seniors.
Anyone who is suffering from an illness or has had a recent death in the family may also be eligible for postponement.
Can you defer?
In a few cases, selected individuals can also apply for deferment. If the man is a ministerial student, he may be eligible for deferment. Or, if he is the breadwinner or main caretaker in the family and leaving would cause his family hardship, then he may apply for deferment.
How Often Do Drafts Happen?
There is no set cadence for how often drafts must happen. The last draft was for the Vietnam War in 1972. Legislation that allows a draft to happen is only enacted when necessary.
What If I Get Drafted & Refuse To Go?
Because the draft is legally mandated, anyone who is selected to join the military and refuses can be punished by law. Consequences vary, but the individual may be charged with a felony, serve prison time, and/or have to pay fines.