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2021 calendar of events related to Selective Service

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.

Depending on the effective date of this provision of the FY 2022 NDAA and the terms of the proclamation by President Biden which will put it into effect by ordering women to register, women born in 2004 may be required to register for the draft as they turn 18, starting sometime in 2022, and at the latest women born in 2005 and after will probably be required to register for the draft when they turn 18, starting 1 January 2023.

If you don’t want this to happen, educate, agitate, and organize against the draft and draft registration — now!

I hope I’m wrong about some of these predictions, and that Congress will decide to end draft registration rather than to expand it to young women as well as young men (or than to do nothing and allow the requirment for men but not women to register to continue). What happens 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.

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.

  • Summer-Fall 2021 (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.

  • 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). At markup sessions the proposal by the leadership and amendments proposed by members of committee will be considered and voted on. The version adopted by the committee will then go to the floor of the House, where any member can propose amendments. But in practice, it is much harder to get amendments adopted on the floor than in committee, and floor debate is usually much more limited than debate in committee.

  • Fall 2021: Floor votes in the House and Senate on their respective versions of the FY 2022 NDAA. Final floor action may not be until December 2021, especially if there is a split between the House and Senate on whether to expand, end, or continue Selective Service registration. The House seems more likely than the Senate to vote to expand registration to women. President Biden supports expanding draft registration to women. The first of his 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. I expect that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic Party leadership will also support expanding Selective Service registration to women.The outcome in the Senate is less clear, since some pro-war sexist Senators 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, although it might instead include a provision ending draft registration.

  • 1 January 2022: Earliest date that authorization for the President to order women to register might take effect, if is enacted as part 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.

  • 2022 and after: Once Federal law is changed to require young women as well as young men to register with the Selective Service System, the SSS will start lobbying state legislators to amend their state laws that link draft registration to eligibility for drivers licenses and other state programs. Most states (although not California or several others including Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) have such laws, and the SSS depends on them for most registrations. But few of these state laws are gender-neutral. Without amendment to these state laws to make them apply to women as well as men, compliance by women with the Selective Service registration requirement is likely to be very low. 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.

  • Sometime in 2022 or 2023 (perhaps most likely 1 January 2023: First women are required to register with the SSS. This could be sometime in 2022, but more likely 1 January 2023, which would mean requiring women born on or after 1 January 2005 to register as they turn 18. The 1 January 2023 startup date seems likely, since it would be a clean year-of-birth cutoff date and would push the potentially controversial attempt to start registering women back until after the 2022 elections. 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 28 July 2021. This site is maintained by Edward Hasbrouck. Corrections, contributions (articles, graphics, photos, videos, links, etc.), and feedback are welcomed.