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Calendar of events leading up to the expnasion of Selective Service to women

Below is a timeline of likely events in 2021 and after related to Selective Service registration.

Unless opposition to draft registration and the likelihood of resistance by young women becomes more visible to Congress, a provision to authorize the President to order women to register with Selective Service is likely to be incorporated into the Fiscal Year 2022 annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which will be enacted in 2021 and take effect in 2022.

As a candidate for President, Joe Biden supported expanding draft registration to women. The first of President Biden’s Cabinet members to be confirmed and take office is Avril Haines, one of the members of the NCMNPS who recommended expanding draft registration to women (and who worked as a consultant to Palantir while serving on the NCMNPS). Two other former members of the NCMNPS, including Debra Wada, who chaired the NCMNPS subcommittee on Selective Service, served on Biden’s transition team. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic Party leadership also support expanding Selective Service registration to women.

Depending on the terms of the proclamation by President Biden which will put this change in the law into effect by ordering women to register, women born in women born in 2005 and after will probably be required to register for the draft when they turn 18, starting sometime in 2023.

What happens fater that will depend on the actions of young women who would be required to register for a possible draft, young men who are already required to register, and older allies. It’s time to educate, agitate, and organize against the draft and draft registration — now!

Here are the events related to the draft, draft registration, and the Selective Service System that have happened or that I expect to happen in 2021:

  • 8 January 2021: Petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court filed by the ACLU on behalf by the National Coalition For Men (NCFM) in their lawsuit against the Selective Service System challenging the Constitutionality of requiring men, but not women, to register for the draft.

  • 11 February 2021: Deadline for filing of “friend of the court” briefs by other organizations with respect to whether the Supreme Court should review the lower court’s decision in NCFM v. Selective Service System. Three briefs were filed, all supporting the petition for certiorari but all pro-military and pro-draft and disingenuously implying that the consequence of a Supreme Court decision that the current male-only Selective Service registration requirement is unconstitutional would be to extend registration to women (which only Congress and not the courts could do) rather than to end draft registration.

  • 11 March 2021: Senate Armed Service Committee hearing on the recommendations of the NCMNPS including the expansion of draft registration to women. The only witnesses were former members of the NCMNPS. More about the Senate hearing and what it omitted.

  • 14 April 2021: Bipartisan Selective Service Repeal Act of 2021 to end draft registration and abolish the Selective Service System introduced as H.R. 2509 in the House by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) and as S. 1139 in the Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen Rand Paul (R-KY). Additional co-sponsors include Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC); residents of the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. territories are subject to the draft despite having no representation in Congress. This proposal could be considered either as a standalone bill or as part of, or an amendment to, the FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

  • 14 April 2021: The Biden Administration’s response to the petition for certiorari in NCFM v. Selective Service System is filed with the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief in opposition to certiorari doesn’t address the claim of discrimination, but argues that (1) it would be premature to consider this case when Congress is considering the issue and might render it moot (notably, the brief discusses the proposals in Congress to expand registration, but doesn’t mention the proposal to end registration introduced in Congress the same day, which would also moot the case), (2) courts should defer to political and military decisions (we need more judicial oversight of military decisions, not less) and (3) maybe the plaintiffs don’t have standing (a strained argument that wasn’t raised in the Court of Appeals). The ACLU, on behalf of NCFM, filed a rebuttal on 27 April 2021.

  • 5 May 2021: Bill to expand the requirement to register with the Selective Service System to young women as well as young men, the Inspire To Serve Act, H.R. 3000, introduced in the House. According to a press release from the sponsors, “The Inspire to Serve Act would… Ensure a more inclusive and diverse national security workforce by requiring both men and women to register with the Selective Service System in accordance with the statute.”

  • 19 May 2021: House Armed Service Committee hearing on the recommendations of the NCMNPS including the expansion of draft registration to women. As with the earlier Senate hearing, and as opponents of Selective Service registration had feared, the only witnesses were former members of the NCMNPS. A joint letter to the Committee leadership from critics of the NCMNPS and supporters of H.R. 2509 and S. 1139 (the Selective Service Repeal Act), calling for a full and fair hearing and requesting an opportunity to testify, was ignored. The real purpose of the hearing may have been to generate publicity that would influence the Supreme Court, whose conference was scheduled for the next day, to decide that Congress was addressing this issue so that the Supreme Court didn’t need to, and could decline to review the case before it and defer to Congress for a decision on whether to continue requiring men, but not women, to register for the draft.

  • 7 June 2021: Supreme Court announces its decision not to review the Circuit Court decision in NCFM v. Selective Service System. More on the implicatioins of this decision by the Supreme Court.

  • 21 July 2021: Markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022 in closed sessions of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC). A joint letter from peace and faith organizations calling on the SASC to include the Selective Service Repeal Act in the NDAA was sent to the members of the SASC just before this markup session began. The version that was approved by the SASC includes provisions expanding Selective Service registration to women and requiring stepped-up contingency planning and preparation for a draft. The version adopted by the committee will go to the floor of the Senate, where any member can propose amendments.

  • 28 July 2021: Markup of the FY 2022 NDAA in the Subcommittee on Military Personnel of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC). Proposals to amend the Military Selective Service Act (MSSA) to authorize the President to order women to register with the SSS, or to repeal the the MSSA, could be considered as amendments to the FY 2022 NDAA (H.R. 4350 in the House). Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo, CA) has long been a supporter of Selective Service registration (as a California state Senator, before she was elected to Congress, Rep. Speier sponsored one of several unsuccessful proposals to require Selective Service registration as a condition for a California drivers license) and a cheerleader for expanding Selective Service registration to women. The issue of Selective Service was not discussed in the Subcommittee. markup session. All proposals and amendments related to Selective Service were deferred to be voted on by the full committee on September 1st.

  • 16 August 2021: Effective as of this date, registration with the Selective Service System is no longer required for eligibility for Federal financial aid for higher education. The question about Selective Service registration and the “Register me with the Selective Service System” box will remain on the FAFSA form until 2023, but can now be ignored without Federal penalty (although some states still require registration with the Selective Service System as a condition of state student aid).

  • 1 September 2021: Markup of the FY 2022 NDAA in the full House Armed Services Committee (HASC). Two amendments to the NDAA related to Selective Service were introduced in the HASC, but only one was deemed in order for consideration by the HASC, which approved an amendment to the NDAA to expand Selective Service in its present form, including the registration and address reporting requirements, to women as well as men. A Selective Service Standby Amendment was proposed as a compromise but was ruled out of order for consideration in committee on the basis of arcane “PAYGO” procedural rules.

  • 20-21 September 2021: House Rules Committee considers which proposed amendments to the House version of the NDAA it will allow to be debated and voted on by the full House. Amendments have been proposed to retain male-only draft registration, make registraiton optional for women, require registration for women as well as men, repeal the registration requirement entirely, or eliminate the extrajudicial Federal and state sanctions for nonregistration (leaving only the unenforced and unenforceable criminal penalties). None of the proposals related to Selective Service were among the 470 amendments made in order by the Rules Committee for floor debate, so the expansion of Selective Service to women will be approved by the House without line-item debate or vote.

  • 23 September 2021: Full House of Representatives votes to approve its version of the FY 2022 NDAA, including expanding Selective Service registration to women effective 1 year after the date the NDAA is enacted. The version of the bill as reported to the House floor would expand Selective Service registration to women, and no amendments to modify this section of the bill were ruled in order, debated, or voted on. The Biden Administration supported the provisions in the NDAA to expand Selective Service to women, and opposed any reduction of the penalties for nonregistration. All of the Democratic sponsors of the Selective Service Repeal Act of 2021 were among the progressive Democrats who voted against the FY 2022 NDAA in its entirety.

  • October 2021: Floor vote in the Senate on its version of the FY 2022 NDAA. The outcome in the Senate is less clear than in the House, since some pro-war sexists (possibly a larger proportion of the Senate than of the House) support a draft and draft registration but oppose drafting women. Visible indications that “young women will resist and that older allies will support them in their resistance may be key to the outcome.

  • Late 2021 (December?): House-Senate conference committee finalizes compromises on FY 2022 NDAA, and it is approved by both chambers. President Biden signs it into law. This legislative act will probably include a provision authorizing the President to order women to register with the SSS, on the same basis as men.

  • Fall-Winter 2021-2022 (could happen at any time): President Biden announces his nominee for Director of the Selective Service System, followed by Congressional hearings on the nomination. Don Benton, President Trump’s appointee as Director of the SSS, quietly departed the agency on Biden’s inauguration day. There was no announcement of his departure, which was made public only when the SSS.gov Web site was updated a few days later to list Benton as a former Director and to list a new Acting Director of the SSS. Three of Benton’s top deputies departed at the same time, leaving vacancies or acting replacements. Benton was an unqualified and incompetent bungler who was appointed solely as a reward for his early support and loyalty to President Trump. Presumably Benton would have been fired by President Biden if he didn’t resign. President Biden now has the chance to appoint a whole new leadership team to shake up the agency and prepare for the start of registration of women. I expect that President Biden will nominate a woman as SSS Director, since her primary task will be to manage the expansion of SSS registration to women while minimizing or deflecting protest. She will be selected to be the “liberated military woman” public face of the new SSS, manage SSS propaganda and Congressional relations, and administer the start-up of registration of women. Debra Wada, who was Vice-Chair for Selective Service issues of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (NCMNPS) and was a member of the Biden transition team, seems the most obvious candidate for SSS Director, and will certainly have a key role in choosing the SSS Director if she isn’t nominated herself. Confirmation hearings on the nominee for SSS Director are likely to include questioning about whether Selective Service registration should be expanded to women. The confirmation hearings could also provide an opportunity for questioning about whether forcing women to register would be feasible and whether women would resist. The nomination of the Director of the SSS will require Senate confirmation. President Biden has been slow to make many of his appointments, and Congress has been slower to hold confirmation hearings for many of them, so it’s not clear when this will happen.

  • 2022 and after: State-by-state litigation and legislative debate over the continued validity of, and possible changes to, gendered state laws linking Selective Service registration to drivers lice nses. Most states (although not California or several others including Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Oregon) have such laws, and the SSS depends on them for most registrations. But many of these state laws penalizing people who haven’t registerd with the SSS use gendered language (e.g. “all male persons” rather than “all persons”) and could be subject to legal challenge and potentially voided, even as applied to men, once the Military Selective Service Act is amended to apply equally to men and women. And unless these state laws are amended to apply to women as well as men, compliance by women with the Selective Service registration requirement is likely to be very low. The SSS, through its state directors and draft board members, will try to get state legislatures to amend their gendered laws to apply equally to men and women. But some of the same pro-draft state legislators who support penalizing male draft resisters are also sexisits who oppose requiring women to register for the draft, and who may oppose using state laws to enforce the Federal mandate for women to register. This propblem was anticipated by the NCMNPS during its closed-door meetings, according to records released later in response to my FOIA requests, but wasn’t mentioned in its public repoert. Without amendment to these state laws to make them apply to women as well as men, Hawkish (but also sexist) state legislators who were happy to link drivers licenses for young men to draft registration may not be so willing to amend those laws to make the same linkage for women. Congressional action on women and draft registration will trigger dozens of state legislative debates about women and Selective Service that will go on for years.

  • December 2022 or January 2023: Authorization for the President to order women to register takesd effect one year after the date of enactment of the FY 2022 NDAA. President Biden could issue a proclamation ordering women to register at any time after the provision of the law giving him authority to do so takes effect. The Presidential proclamation will specify which women have to register, how, and when, and could also update or revise any of the provisions of the 1980 proclamation by President Carter requiring men to register. I expect that the proclamation will require women to register just as men are now required to do, as they turn 18, starting with women born on or after some cutoff date specified in the proclamation.

  • Sometime in 2022 or 2023 (perhaps most likely 1 January 2023 or 1 July 2023: First women are required to register with the SSS. This could be as early as late 2022, but more likely will be sometime in 2023, which would mean requiring women born in 2005 or after to register as they turn 18. In theory, the start-up and cut-off dates could be even later, but I don’t think President Biden will want to delay the effective date of his proclamation any longer that is necessary for the Selective Service System to prepare to start registering women. Women born in 2005 or after, and their families, friends, and allies, should start thinking about what they will do if they are ordered to register for the draft.

  • 1 July 2023: Questions about Selective Service are removed from the FAFSA Federal student aid application form.

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This page most recently modified 24 September 2021. This site is maintained by Edward Hasbrouck. Corrections, contributions (articles, graphics, photos, videos, links, etc.), and feedback are welcomed.