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Repeal Selective Service Registration!

Download this leaflet as a 2-sided 1-sheet PDF.

Women Lead the Mobilization Against the Draft
[San Francisco, 22 March 1980. Photo by Chris Booth.]

No young person, regardless of gender, should be subject to a military draft or be forced to register for a draft in the United States. The military draft registration system is an unnecessary, wasteful bureaucracy which unconstitutionally violates Americans’ civil liberties and unfairly subjects individuals who fail to register for the draft to unnecessarily severe, lifelong penalties — penalties which disproportionately affect low-income Americans. We should be abolishing military draft registration altogether, not expanding it, which is why I’m proud to reintroduce the Selective Service Repeal Act in the House.

[Rep. Peter DeFazio, 14 April 2021; interview with Rep. DeFazio on Oregon Public Radio, 25 April 2021]

The four of us recently introduced the Selective Service Repeal Act, a bill to finally put an end to the expensive, wasteful, outdated, punitive, and unnecessary military draft registration system. We urge you to include our bill, or similar provisions, in the FY 2022 NDAA and to oppose any efforts to expand military draft registration.

[Joint letter from the sponsors of the Selective Service Repeal Act to the House Armed Services Committee, 23 July 2021]

Tell Congress to end draft registration, not expand it to women:

  1. Repeal Presidential authority to order registration

  2. Repeal all Federal sanctions for nonregistration.

  3. Preempt all state sanctions for nonregistration.

  4. Abolish the Selective Service System.

In 2016 and again in 2021, Congress came close to approving legislation to expand the requirement to register with the Selective Service System for a possible military draft to include young women as well as young men. On 16 June 2022, the Senate Armed Services Committee proposed a version of the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense [sic] Authorization Act (NDAA) that would “expand draft registration to women”:/blog/archives/002650.html as well as men. The version of the FY 2023 NDAA reported by the House Armed Services Committee on 22 June 2022 and to be considered by the full House would make no changes to the current law requiring men but not women to register for the draft. Differences between the versions of the bill adopted by the full House and full Senate will be referred to a House-Senate conference committee to negotiate a package of compromises in closed meetings. So even if the House version of the bill includes no provisions related to Selective Service, provisions based on the Senate version (or other compromises) could be included in the conference committee’s compromise package. By burying this legislation in a 2,000-page bill with hundreds of other provisions, Congress has avoided any floor vote or hearings on the continuation or expansion of draft registration. There have still been no hearings or debate in either the House or the Senate on the Selective Service Repeal Act (H.R. 2509 / S. 1139).

Why are we talking about expanding draft registration to women, rather than ending it?

The choice is not between continuing male-only draft registration and expanding draft registration to women. The real choice is whether to expand registration to women or to end it entirely.

This is a choice about militarism, not a choice about gender equality. Expanding draft registration to women would bring about a semblance of equality in war (although women in the military would likely still be subject to disproportionate sexual harassment and abuse). Ending draft registration would bring about real equality in peace and freedom. It would put an end to the fantasy that the draft is always available as a “fallback” — a myth that enables planning for larger, longer, less popular wars without concern for whether people will volunteer to fight them.

Draft boards have been appointed and trained throughout the U.S. The Selective Service System maintains contingency plans for a general “cannon fodder” draft of young men (based on the current list of registrants) and a separate Health Care Personnel Delivery System.

All male U.S. residents are required to register with the Selective Service System when they turn 18, and notify Selective Service every time they change their address until their 26th birthday.

Few young men comply fully with the draft registration law. Most men who register for the draft do so only if and when it is required for some other government program, and almost nobody tells the Selective Service System when they move. Most draft notices would be returned as undeliverable. Even the former Director of the Selective Service System has testified that the current Selective Service database is so incomplete and inaccurate that it would be “less than useless” for an actual draft.

Will draft registration and planning for a military draft continue?
Will women be required to register for a military draft?

On December 6, 2021, the expansion of draft registration to women was removed from this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) during House-Senate negotiations.

But the expansion of draft registration is likely to be considered again by Congress in 2022 or 2023. It’s a bad idea that won’t go away until Congress ends draft registration entirely.

Sooner or later, the failure of draft registration will become too widely recognized for the government to ignore. At that point, the government will have to decide whether to try again to prosecute a handful of nonregistrants in the hope that a few “show trials” will scare everyone else into registering (as it tried to do, unsuccessfully, with a few young men in the 1980s, before abandoning enforcement of the registration law in 1988), or finally admit failure and end draft registration.

Our actions now in lobbying for an end to draft registration and repeal of the Military Selective Service Act, organizing against the draft and draft registration, supporting resistance to draft registration, and calling public attention to the extent of noncompliance with draft registration can help make the difference in whether draft registration is ended soon, or whether another generation of young people — this time including young women as well as young men — is subjected both to the requirement to register for the draft and to a new threat of prosecution of a selected few if they do not.

Congress could end draft registration entirely, rather than trying to extend it to women. A bipartisan Selective Service Repeal Act of 2021 (H.R. 2509 / S. 1139) is pending in both the House and the Senate. This bill would put an end to plans and preparations for any type of draft, and restore the eligibility of men who didn’t register for the draft for government jobs, naturalized citizenship, and other government programs from which they are currently excluded. But if we don’t speak up now, draft registration will be probably be expanded to women as well as men.

The perception that the draft is always available as a “fallback” enables planning for larger, longer, less popular wars, without regard for whether people will volunteer to fight them. By preventing a draft, draft registration resisters are helping to protect us all against war. We can support them by asking our Representatives and Senators to support the Selective Service Repeal Act.

Co-sponsors of the Selective Service Repeal Act of 2021 include Republicans and Democrats, civil libertarians and progressives, women of color (Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-MI, and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC), the co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus (Rep. Mark Pocan, D-WI), and a woman military veteran (Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-IA). Ask your Representative and Senators to join them as co-sponsors, and urge House and Senate Armed Services Committee members to push for hearings on Selective Service repeal.

Download this leaflet as a 2-sided 1-sheet PDF.

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This page most recently modified 26 July 2022. This site is maintained by Edward Hasbrouck. Corrections, contributions (articles, graphics, photos, videos, links, etc.), and feedback are welcomed.