Military draft explained: 7 things you need to know - Operation Military Kids (2023)

Almost all men between the ages of 18 and 25 living in the United States are required by law to register for mandatory military service.

Entries for the draft are made and managed by the Selective Service System.

Mandatory military registration is considered a civic obligation for men living in the United States, but the same does not apply to women in the US.

Here are 7 things you need to know about recruiting.

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1. What is military conscription?

Military draft explained: 7 things you need to know - Operation Military Kids (1)

In the United States, military conscription requires mandatory registration with the Selective Service for certain individual citizens.

Conscription, also known as conscription, refers to this potential requirement of conscription if the US government deems it necessary to invoke conscription.

Registration for conscription is required by the US government for male citizens within a specified age range.

The purpose of the draft is for the country to have enough personnel to support the armed forces, whether needed for defense or in response to a national emergency.

The US Selective Service System is the agency that oversees preliminary registration.

The Selective Service is also responsible for implementing and enforcing a draft if/when it is enacted by Congress and the President of the United States.

The US military has been an "all-volunteer" force, with no active conscription, since 1973.

This means that each branch of the military is currently made up of people who choose to serve of their own free will.

However, at age 18, male US citizens must register for the draft, regardless of whether or not they have considered military service.

As a result, registered Selective Service members could be (involuntarily) conscripted into the military by an act of Congress in the event of a national emergency or threat.

Fundamentals of Modern Design

The policies and legislation that form the basis of modern military recruiting began when the United States entered World War I.

President Woodrow Wilson signed the Selective Service Act in May 1917, which created the Selective Service System.

The Selective Service initially applied to male citizens between 21 and 30 years old, and later from 18 to 45 years old.

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In September 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Selective Service and Training Act into law, establishing the first peacetime draft in US history.

This was in response to World War II and applied to men ages 21 to 36.

Although the Selective Service legislation expired in 1947 and 1950, world events and conflicts such as the Korean War continued to extend the draft.

In 1951, the Selective Service Act was reauthorized as the Universal Military Service and Training Act.

As a result, all males between the ages of 18 and 26 were required to register for mandatory military service.

Examples of the modern draft

Military draft explained: 7 things you need to know - Operation Military Kids (2)

Most Americans today associate the draft and the controversies surrounding it with the Vietnam War in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

During this war, up to 2.2 million were conscripted into active military service.

Many of those drafted into the military by the 1969 lottery process under the Selective Service Act became conscientious objectors, "evaded" military service by fleeing the United States, or refused to serve in response to their draft notices.

This resistance to being drafted into the US Armed Forces divided public opinion and emphasized the political, ethical, and practical consequences and focus of recruitment.

In January 1973, the Department of Defense suspended conscription, allowing the Military Selective Service Act to expire in June.

After the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in 1980, President Jimmy Carter reactivated the Selective Military Service Act through an executive order.

There was no military service mandate, but the law required men between the ages of 18 and 26 to register with the Selective Service System.

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2. How the draft system works

If Congress and the President of the United States authorize a draft, the Selective Service System begins drafting registered males, ages 18 to 25, for military service.

The sequence for the call to duty is usually determined by year of birth and random lottery numbers.

Men called up for military service will be tested for mental, physical, and moral fitness.

On the basis of this examination, they may be admitted to the Armed Forces, deferred or exempted from military service on medical or psychological grounds.

Projections are that if the U.S. enacted a draft, draftees and 20-year-olds would be the first group to be called.

Once a registered natural person reaches the age of 26, he or she exceeds the age of responsibility for the business.

3. Military enlistment requirements for 2022

Military draft explained: 7 things you need to know - Operation Military Kids (3)

As of 2022, men in the US aged between 18 and 25 must register with the Selective Service System, by law.

Male US citizens must register within 30 days of turning 18hebirthday.

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Male immigrants, if age 18 or younger than 26, must register within 30 days of arrival in the US.

There are some people who are exempt from registering for the military draft and therefore do not need to fill out any forms in the Secret Service System.

These include:

  • Current active service members
  • People with specific disabilities
  • arrested men
  • Men on a student, visitor or diplomatic visa

However, if an active male member is discharged before reaching the age of 26, he must still register.

There are some men (conscientious objectors) who are opposed to military service.

Their reasons vary, but are mostly based on moral and/or religious principles.

These conscientious objectors are still required to register with the Selective Service System by law.

4. Consequences of not inscribing in the Draft

There are consequences for those who are required to register for the draft but fail to do so.

Intentionally avoiding U.S. draft registration is a felony.

Failure to enroll in the Selective Care System may have the following legal and personal consequences:

  • Ineligibility for state benefits, especially state-funded student aid
  • Ineligibility for professional training, jobs, and/or federal benefits
  • Possible prosecution and fine of up to $250,000 in fines and/or up to five years in prison
  • Loss of voting rights, etc., due to criminal conviction
  • Ineligibility for Citizenship for US Immigrants

If someone does not register for the Selective Service before the age of 26, he will no longer be able to do so.

The most recent prosecution for avoiding military registration took place in 1986.

Since then, the Selective Service System can and does provide information on individuals who do not register for mandatory military service with the Department of Justice.

Those who can provide evidence thatintentionallyAvoiding registration for the draft could get you denied federal or state benefits.

However, this type of feature will likely require a lot of time and money.

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5. How to sign up for the draft

Military draft explained: 7 things you need to know - Operation Military Kids (4)

As registration for the draft is required by law, the registration process is quite straightforward and simple.

Here is a step-by-step explanation of how to apply for the draft:


Men who have reached the age of 18 can apply for mandatory military service in several ways:

  • To fill inin linerecord
  • Post office registration form
  • Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) registration form when obtaining driver's license
  • Return card sent to postal address (about 18hebirthday)

Also, some secondary schools facilitate preliminary registration.

Receive proof of registration

Within 90 days of registering for Selective Service, a registration letter and card will be mailed to you.

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This letter and card serve as proof of enrollment in the Selection Service.

Anyone who does not receive the letter and ID within 90 days can call the Selective Service System.

In addition, it is important to contact the Selective Service System if there is an error in your registration form, if you change your name or change your address.

Individuals must keep their information current until age 26.

In case of loss of registration card, the attached letter will serve as proof of registration.

After completing registration

No action is required upon receipt of proof of registration unless a draft is enacted.

However, it is up to the holder of the preliminary registration to communicate any new personal information to the Selective Care System.

This includes name or address changes.

Most of the time, after you turn 26, you are exempt from conscription.

6. Women and the Draft

Currently, Selective Service legislation regarding US citizens required to register for mandatory military service applies specifically and only to "male" individuals.

This exclusion of women has been confirmed by the Federal Supreme Court since 1981,Rostker contra Goldberg.

The Department of Defense officially lifted gender restrictions on military service in late 2015, including removing combat restrictions for women.

However, Selective Service continues to apply only to men aged 18 to 25.

Therefore, Congress must amend the law to require or even allow women to register for the Selective Service.

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7. Probability of future draft

It seems highly unlikely that the United States will pass a draft in the near future.

Indeed, many legislators have offered their support to a movement to end mandatory military registration or to include women in recruitment policy as well.

While it is possible that there will be changes to Selective Service legislation in the future, the likelihood of a call-up is very low.

So it looks like the US military will remain a volunteer force for the foreseeable future.


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Why are women not required to register?

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Rob V. is the founder of Although he has never served in the US Armed Forces, he is passionate about writing about military-related topics.

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At what age can you no longer be drafted? ›

The Military Selective Service Act of 1967 expanded the ages of conscription to the ages of 18 to 55. 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.

Who Cannot be drafted? ›

  • The Vice-President of the United States, the Judges of the various Courts of the Untied States, the heads of the various executive departments of the Government, and the Governors of the several States.
  • The only son liable to military duty of a widow dependent upon his labor for support.

What exempts you from being drafted? ›

Veterans, generally exempt from service in peacetime draft. Immigrants and dual nationals in some cases may be exempt from U.S. military service depending upon their place of residence and country of citizenship.

Who gets drafted first? ›

The lottery would establish the priority of call based on the birth dates of registrants. The first men drafted would be those turning age 20 during the calendar year of the lottery.

Can you refuse military draft? ›

Service as a Conscientious Objector

Two types of service are available to conscientious objectors, and the type assigned is determined by the individual's specific beliefs. The person who is opposed to any form of military service will be assigned to alternative service – described below.

What happens if you refuse the draft? ›

If required to register with Selective Service, failure to register is a felony punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and/or 5 years imprisonment. Also, a person who knowingly counsels, aids, or abets another to fail to comply with the registration requirement is subject to the same penalties.

How do you dodge the draft? ›

Obtaining conscientious objector status by professing insincere religious or ethical beliefs. Obtaining a student deferment, if the student wishes to attend or remain in school largely to avoid the draft. Claiming a medical or psychological problem, if the purported problem is feigned, overstated, or self-inflicted.

Can you be drafted if you're over 30? ›

Present - The U.S. currently operates under an all-volunteer armed forces policy. All male citizens between the ages of 18 and 26 are required to register for the draft and are liable for training and service until the age of 35.

How tall is too tall for the military? ›

The ideal height requirement for men in the military is between 60-80 inches / 152-203 cm. Anyone above or below this requirement is likely to get rejected.

How do you avoid being drafted? ›

Defer your service. If you are not exempt, you still may be able to put off entering the military. Many countries offer deferments for education, for example. According to US law, high school students may defer their service in any future draft until they graduate or reach the age of 20.

Can you be drafted if you wear glasses? ›

Poor vision typically will not limit your ability to serve in the U.S. Military, so long as your vision problem can be suitably corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses or vision correction surgery.

Can you not be drafted if you have ADHD? ›

While ADHD alone does not disqualify a person from military service, the Department of Defense (DOD) places significant enlistment restrictions on individuals with an ADHD diagnosis and/or prior treatment with medication. Has documentation of adverse academic, occupational, or work performance.

Can you be drafted if you're obese? ›

You may be drafted regardless of your weight.

However, you won't make it past the in-bound physical that all draftees must undergo as being overweight, especially morbidly obese, will prevent you from being considered.

Can felons be drafted to war? ›

Can An Individual With A Felony Get Drafted? To get admitted and serve in the military, one has to meet specific standards. Those include mental, physical, and administrative measures put in place by the army. Having a felony on your name does not mean that you will not receive a call.

Can you be drafted at age 35? ›

Present - The U.S. currently operates under an all-volunteer armed forces policy. All male citizens between the ages of 18 and 26 are required to register for the draft and are liable for training and service until the age of 35.

Are you automatically registered for Selective Service when you turn 18? ›

According to law, a man must register with Selective Service within 30 days of his 18th birthday. Selective Service accepts late registrations up until a man reaches his 26th birthday.

Can a 30 year old be drafted? ›

All men from the ages of 18 to 64 years will now be eligible for the draft, according to a decision made by congressional committees on December 16, now including men with families who might have previously been exempt because of old age or boys fresh out of school.

What are the chances of getting drafted? ›

There are 1,093,234 high school football players in the United States, and 6.5% of those high school players (or 71,060) will play in college. The drop off from college to the pros is even more dramatic: only 1.2% college-level players will get drafted to the NFL.


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