Worried You’ll Get Drafted? Fears Versus Facts

Worried You’ll Get Drafted? Fears Versus Facts

01.10.20
Photo: DanielBendjy/Getty Images
01.10.20

Last week’s U.S. airstrike that killed Iran’s Major General Qassem Soleimani has lots of young people worrying: Am I about to get drafted?

Even though there hasn’t been a draft since 1973, the Selective Service System’s website has been crashing from so much traffic. Adding to the growing anxiety, fake text messages went out this week telling recipients they’d been drafted, forcing the U.S. Army to issue an emergency “fraud alert.”

YR Media asked Public Affairs Specialist Diana Shannon from the U.S. Army’s Central California Recruiting Battalion what people should know about a military draft.

What is a military draft? 

“The draft is just basically telling someone they’ll serve [a certain number] of years, and your education [and] qualifications will determine what job you are doing [in the military],” Shannon said. In the past, the draft was used to fill roles in the armed forces when there were not enough volunteers.

For a draft to take place, Shannon said Congress would need to first pass legislation to reinstate it, and then the President would have to sign off on it. None of that has happened.

What does it mean to sign up with Selective Service?

While there is currently no draft in place, most men aged 18 to 25 in the U.S. are required to register with Selective Service. This includes men who are immigrants, refugees and undocumented. There are a few exemptions, such as being incarcerated.

Once a man turns 26, he is no longer eligible to be drafted. The draft age would only change if Congress passed legislation to do so.

If a draft were to go into effect today, the Selective Service would place everybody on its list into a lottery. Shannon said mandatory registration ensures all required men are in their system. Defying the mandate has consequences, such as ineligibility for federal student aid or federal jobs. Those who fail to sign up can also face fines or jail time

Could there be a draft soon?

Shannon’s simple answer is no. There has been no serious public discussion about bringing it back since the last draft ended during the Vietnam War and switched to an all-volunteer army, according to Shannon. “We do well enough as a recruiting command that we haven’t had to do a draft,” she said. “During the Vietnam War, they enacted a draft because they needed more men to fight. Nowadays, young men and women join the army voluntarily.”

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