May 18, 1917|
September 16, 1940
|Headquarters||Arlington County, Virginia, United States|
|Employees||(2008): 136 full-time civilians, 57 part-time civilian directors, 200 part-time reserve force officers (in peacetime), up to 10,830 part-time volunteers|
|Annual budget||$24 million (FY 2012)|
|Agency executive||Lawrence G. Romo, Director (as of December 2009)|
The Selective Service System is an independent agency of the United States government that maintains information on those potentially subject to military conscription. Most male U.S. citizens and male immigrant non-citizens between the ages of 18 and 25 are required by law to have registered within 30 days of their 18th birthdays and must notify Selective Service within ten days of any changes to any of the information they provided on their registration cards, like a change of address. A 2010 GAO report estimated the registration rate at 92% with the names and addresses of over 16.2 million men on file.
The Selective Service System provides the names of all registrants to the Joint Advertising Marketing Research & Studies (JAMRS) program for inclusion in the JAMRS Consolidated Recruitment Database. The names are distributed to the Services for recruiting purposes on a quarterly basis.
Regulations are codified at 32 1600–1699 (Chapter XVI).
The Selective Service Act of 1917 (40 Stat. 76) was passed by the 65th United States Congress on May 18, 1917 creating the Selective Service System. The Act gave the President the power to conscript men for military service. All males aged 21 to 30 were required to register for military service for a service period of 12 months. As of mid-November 1917, all registrants were placed in one of five new classifications. Men in Class I were the first to be drafted, and men in lower classifications were deferred. Dependency deferments for registrants who were fathers or husbands were especially widespread. The age limit was later raised in August 1918 to a maximum age of 45. The military draft was discontinued in 1920.
The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 was passed by the 76th United States Congress on 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. In 1941 the military service period was extended to 18 months; later that year the age bracket was increased to include males aged 18 to 45. Upon declaration of war in 1942 the service period was extended to last the duration of the war plus a six-month service in the Organized Reserves.
The Selective Service System created by the 1940 Act was terminated by the Act of March 31, 1947, and the Selective Service Act of 1948 created a new and separate system, and is the basis for the modern system. 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 chosen in 1948. In 1950, the number of conscripts was greatly increased to meet the demands of the Korean War.
The outbreak of the Korean War fostered the creation of the Universal Military Training and Service Act of 1951 (Selective Service Act of 1948). This lowered the draft age from 19 to 18 1⁄2, 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, which was extended as long as they were students. 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, however, such legislation was never passed.
President Kennedy set up Executive Order 11119 (signed on September 10, 1963), granting an exemption from conscription for married men between the ages of 19 and 26. President Johnson later rescinded the exemption for married men without children by Executive Order 11241 (signed on August 26, 1965 and going into effect on midnight of that date). However, married men with children or other dependents and men married before the Executive Order went into effect were still exempt. President Reagan revoked both of them with Executive Order 12553 (signed on February 25, 1986).
The Military Selective Service Act of 1967 (Selective Service Act of 1948) 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 Nixon signed an amendment to the Military Selective Service Act of 1967 that established conscription based on random selection (lottery). The first "draft lottery" was held on December 1, 1969.
In 1971, the Military Selective Service Act (Selective Service Act of 1948) 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 (Conscientious Objector available for alternate community service). Student deferments were ended, except for Divinity students, who received a 2-D 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 January 27, 1973, Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird announced the creation of an all-volunteer armed forces, negating the need for the military draft.
On March 29, 1975, President Ford signed Proclamation 4360, Terminating Registration Procedures Under Military Selective Service Act, eliminating the registration requirement for all 18–25 year old male citizens.
On July 2, 1980, however, President Carter signed Proclamation 4771, Registration Under the Military Selective Service Act in response to the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan, 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. Tuesdays, 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, non-U.S.-citizen males between the ages of 18 and 25 (inclusive) living in the United States must register. This includes permanent residents (holders of Green Cards), refugees, asylees, and illegal immigrants. Foreign males in the United States as lawful non-immigrants (international students, visitors, diplomats, etc.) are not required to register. Failure to register as required is grounds for denying a petition for US citizenship. Currently, citizens who are 17 and 3 months old can pre-register so when they turn 18 their information will automatically be added into the system.
In the current registration system, a man cannot indicate that he is a conscientious objector (CO) 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 occupation", 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.
Females as well as female-to-male transgender individuals who identify as male or have had sexual reassignment surgery 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.
Until their 26th birthday, registered males must notify Selective Service within 10 days of any changes to information regarding his status, such as name, current mailing address, permanent residence address, and "all information concerning his status … which the classifying authority mails him a request therefor".
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. Routine checks requiring identification virtually never include a request for draft card.
As an alternative method of encouraging or coercing 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 willful. There is a procedure to provide an "information letter" by the SSS for those in these situations, for example recent citizens who entered the US after their 26th birthday.
Most states, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and Virgin Islands, have passed laws requiring registration 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 jobs. Alaska also requires registration to receive an Alaska Permanent Fund dividend. Eight states (Connecticut, Indiana, Nebraska, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming) as well as Puerto Rico 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. The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles automatically registers young men 18–25 with the Selective Service as federally required, whenever they apply for driver licenses, learner permits, or non-driver identification cards.
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.
Alien or dual-national registrant status
Some registrants are not American citizens, or have dual nationality of the U.S. and another country; they fall instead into one of the following categories:
- Alien or Dual National: An alien is a person who is not a citizen of the United States. A dual national is a person who is a citizen of the United States and another country. They are defined in four classes.
- A registrant who has resided in the United States for less than one year. When two or more periods of U.S. residency are involved which total one year or more, the registrant will be deemed to have resided in the United States for one year and will be ineligible for Class 4-C. In computing the length of such periods, any portion of one day shall be counted as a day. He will be eligible for this class only until he has resided in the United States for one year. To support this claim he must submit his Immigration and Naturalization Service Form 1-151 (Alien Registration Receipt Card), showing his date of entry into the United States. If he has resided in the United States for two or more periods, he must furnish documentation for each period of residence. A registrant who receives this classification will be exempt from military training and service during his first year's residence in the US, but will become liable for service following his cumulative one year residence.
- A registrant who left the United States before his Order to Report for Induction was issued and whose order has not been canceled. He may be classified in Class 4-C only for the period he resides outside of the United States. Upon his return to the United States, he must report the date of return and his current address to the Selective Service Area Office.
- A registrant who registered at a time required by Selective Service law and thereafter acquired status within one of its groups of persons exempt from registration. He will be eligible for this class only during the period of his exempt status. To support this claim, the registrant must submit documentation from the diplomatic agency of the country of which he is a subject verifying his exempt status.
- A registrant, lawfully admitted for permanent residence, as defined in Paragraph (2) of Section 101(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, as amended (66 Stat. 163, 8 U.S.C. 1101) who, by reason of their occupational status, is subject to adjustment to non-immigrant status under paragraph (15)(A), (15)(E), or (15)(G) or section 101(a). In this case, the person must also have executed a waiver of all rights, privileges, exemptions, and immunities which would otherwise accrue to him as a result of his occupational status. To support this claim, the registrant must submit documentation from the diplomatic agency of the country of which he is a subject verifying his occupational status.
- Dual national: The person is a citizen of both the United States and another country at the same time. The country must be one that allows its citizens dual citizenship and the registrant must be able to obtain and produce the proper papers to affirm this status.
- Treaty alien: Due to a treaty or international arrangement with the alien's country of origin, the registrant can choose to be ineligible for military training and service in the armed forces of the United States. However, once this exemption is taken, he can never apply for US citizenship and may become inadmissible to reenter the USA after leaving unless he already served in the Armed Forces of a foreign country of which the alien was a national. Nevertheless, an alien who establishes clear and convincing evidence of certain factors may still override this kind of bar to naturalization.
The Selective Service System is authorized by the Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution which says Congress "shall have Power To ... raise and support Armies [and] To provide and maintain a Navy;" The Selective Service Act was the law which established the Selective Service System under these provisions.
Still, the act has been challenged in light of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which prohibits "involuntary servitude". These challenges, however, have not been supported by the courts; as the Supreme Court stated in Butler v. Perry (1916):
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.
Exemption of women
Selective Service law as it is written now refers specifically to "male persons" in stating who must register and who would be drafted. For women to be required to register with the Selective Service, Congress would have to amend the law, which currently exempts women from registration.
The constitutionality of excluding women was decided in 1981 by the United States Supreme Court in Rostker v. Goldberg, with the Court holding that requiring only men to register did not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
- "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 Clinton, the Department of Defense reviewed the issue in 1994, noting that because women are excluded by policy from front line combat positions, excluding them from the draft process remains justifiable in DoD's view. Although no conclusions were reached, DoD recognized that policies regarding women need to be reviewed periodically because the role of women in the military continues to expand. The Selective Service System takes the position that it would be able to register and draft women with its existing infrastructure, if given the mission and additional funding.
On January 23, 2013, the Pentagon decided to end its policy of excluding women from combat positions. Military and legal analysts speculate that this will open the door for Congress to begin the process to amend the law and remove the exemption from registration requirements.
The National Coalition for Men has filed a lawsuit that challenges the legality of requiring only males to register for the military draft. The lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Selective Service System in the United States District Court for the Central District of California on April 4, 2013, Case Number 2:13-cv-02391-DSF-MAN 
Structure and operation
The Selective Service System is an independent federal agency within the Executive Branch of the federal government of the United States. The Director of the Selective Service System reports directly to the President of the United States of America.
During peacetime, the agency comprises a National Headquarters, three Regional Headquarters and a Data Management Center. Even during peacetime, the agency is also aided by 11,000 volunteers serving on local boards and district appeal boards. 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
The description below is for a general draft under the current Selective Service regulations. Any or all of these procedures could be changed by Congress as part of the same legislation that would authorize inductions, or through separate legislation, so there is no guarantee that this is how any draft would actually work. Different procedures would be followed for a special-skills draft, such as activation of the Health Care Personnel Delivery System (HCPDS).
- 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 manpower.
- 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 order).
- 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 induction.
- 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 mass 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 20, then 21, 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 Management Center.
If a draft were authorized by Congress, without any other changes being made in the law, local boards would classify registrants to determine whether they were exempt from military service. According to US Code of Federal Regulations Title 32, Chapter XVI, Sec. 1630.2, men would be sorted into the following categories:
|1-A||Available for unrestricted military service.|
|1-A-O||Conscientious objector available for noncombatant military service only.|
|1-C||Member of the Armed Forces of the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or the Public Health Service. (Enl.) Enlisted. Member who volunteered for service, (Ind.) Inducted. Member who was conscripted into service, (Dis.) Discharged. Member released after completing service. (Sep.) Separated. Member released before completing service.|
|1-D||Members of a reserve component (Reserves or National Guard), students taking military training (ROTC), or accepted Aviation Cadet applicants (1942–1961).|
|1-D-D||Deferment for certain members of a reserve component or student taking military training.|
|1-D-E||Exemption of certain members of a reserve component or student taking military training.|
|1-H||Registrant Not Subject to Processing for Induction. Registrant is not subject to processing for induction until a draft is enacted. All current registrants are classified 1-H until they reach the age of exemption, when they then receive the classification of 5-A.|
|1-O||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.|
|1-O-S||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.|
|1-S (H)||Student deferred by statute (High School). Induction can be deferred either until graduation or until reaching the age of 20.|
|1-S (C)||Student deferred by statute (College). Induction can be deferred either to the end of the student's current semester if an undergraduate or until the end of the academic year if a Senior.|
|1-W||Conscientious objector ordered to perform alternative service.|
|1-Y||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 was discontinued in December, 1971 and its members were reclassified as 4-F.|
|2-A||Registrant deferred because of civilian occupation (non-agricultural).|
|2-B||Registrant deferred because of occupation in a war industry: (Defense contractor or reserved occupation).|
|2-C||Registrant deferred because of agricultural occupation.|
|2-D||Registrant a divinity student. Deferment lasted either until graduation or until the registrant reached the age of 24. Exemption was created in December, 1971. Previously considered part of Class 4-D.|
|2-S||Registrant deferred because of collegiate study. Deferment lasted either until graduation or until the registrant reached the age of 24. Exemption was discontinued in December, 1971.|
|3-A||Registrant deferred because of hardship to dependents.|
|3-A-S||Registrant deferred because of hardship to dependents (Separated). Current serving member or registrant undergoing induction separated from military service due to a change in family status. The registrant's deferment can last no longer than six months, after which they may re-file if the hardship continues to exist.|
|4-A||Registrant who has completed military service.|
|4-A-A||Registrant who has performed military service for a foreign nation.|
|4-B||Official deferred by law.|
|4-C||Alien or dual national.|
|4-D||Minister of religion, formally ordained by a recognized church, a full-time minister with a church and congregation.|
|4-E||Conscientious objector opposed to both combatant and noncombatant training and service. Alternative service in lieu of induction may still be required.|
|4-F||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 (MEPS) 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.|
|4-G||Registrant exempted from service because of the death of a parent or sibling while serving in the Armed Forces or whose parent or sibling has Prisoner of War or Missing In Action status.|
|4-W||Registrant or conscientious objector who has completed alternative service in lieu of induction.|
|5-A||Registrant who is over either the age of liability (26) or (where applicable) the previous deferment age of liability (35)|
|1.||Clarence Addison Dykstra||1940-10-15 – 1941-04-01||Franklin D. Roosevelt|
|2.||Lewis Blaine Hershey||1941-07-31 – 1970-02-15||Franklin D. Roosevelt|
|Dee Ingold||1970-02-15 – 1970-04-06||(Acting)|
|3.||Curtis W. Tarr||1970-04-06 – 1972-05-01||Richard Nixon|
|Byron V. Pepitone||1972-05-01 – 1973-04-01||(Acting)|
|4.||Byron V. Pepitone||1973-04-02 – 1977-07-31||Richard Nixon|
|Robert E. Shuck||1977-08-01 – 1979-11-25||(Acting)|
|5.||Bernard D. Rostker||1979-11-26 – 1981-07-31||Jimmy Carter|
|James G. Bond||1981-08-01 – 1981-10-30||(Acting)|
|6.||Thomas K. Turnage||1981-10-30 – 1986-03-23||Ronald Reagan|
|Wilfred L. Ebel||1986-03-24 – 1987-07-08||(Acting)|
|Jerry D. Jennings||1987-07-09 – 1987-12-17||(Acting)|
|7.||Samuel K. Lessey Jr.||1987-12-18 – 1991-03-07||Ronald Reagan|
|8.||Robert W. Gambino||1991-03-08 – 1994-01-31||George H. W. Bush|
|G. Huntington Banister||1994-02-01 – 1994-10-06||(Acting)|
|9.||Gil Coronado||1994-10-07 – 2001-05-23||Bill Clinton|
|10.||Alfred V. Rascon||2001-05-24 – 2003-01-02||George W. Bush|
|Lewis C. Brodsky||2003-01-03 – 2004-04-28||(Acting)|
|Jack Martin||2004-04-29 – 2004-11-28||(Acting)|
|11.||William A. Chatfield||2004-11-29 – 2009-05-29||George W. Bush|
|Ernest E. Garcia||2009-05-29 – 2009-12-04||(Acting)|
|12.||Lawrence Romo||2009-12-04 – present||Barack Obama|
- Advanced Service Rating Score, the demobilization points system employed by the US Army at the conclusion of World War II
- Civilian Public Service
- Conscription in the United States
- Draft-card burning
- Draft dodging
- Lodge-Philbin Act of 1950
- Selective Service System official website