Selective Service System Going Away?
Under the loud roar of sequestration and the thundering of the withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan, Congress is quietly talking about the possibility of dismantling the Selective Service System. Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) and Representative Mike Coffman (R-Colorado) are in the process of creating a bill that would eradicate the Selective Service System and consequently, the possibility of a modern conscription. As of mid-March, 2013, the potential bill had not been introduced to the floor of the House.
The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 created the Selective Service System and peacetime draft. The draft ended in 1973 but the registration requirement remained. Young men between the ages of 18 and 25 years are required to register for possible conscription under penalty of law. With 17 million men in its database, the Selective Service System, an independent agency under the Executive branch, has a 2013 budget of $24 million and 130 employees.
In January 2013 then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that the ban on female soldiers in combat positions was going to be lifted. Critics have questioned the timing and motive of this bill coming rather quickly after the lifting of the combat ban.
In addition, critics question the bill in terms of national security. While the armed forces have been an all-volunteer service since 1973, Selective Service Director Lawrence Romo calls the agency “an inexpensive insurance policy.” Others counter with the fact that the registration requirement was not in effect from 1975 until 1980 (when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan). Through the Soviet Afghan invasion and two Gulf Wars the U.S. military has maintained its health, strength, and viability. They also counter by pointing out the record numbers of voluntary enlistments immediately following the events of 9-11.
Until the formal presentation of the bill and adoption into law, all young men between the ages of 18 and 25 years old living in the United States must register with the Selective Services. U.S. male citizens living outside of the United States must also register. Online registration is quick and easy. Not registering limits your ability to receive student financial aid, get a federal job, participate in federal job training, or become a United States citizen. Prosecution and jail time is also a possibility, although it has not occurred since 1986.