SEQUENCE OF EVENTS
Here is a brief overview of what would occur if the United
States returned to a draft:
1. CONGRESS AND THE PRESIDENT AUTHORIZE A DRAFT
A crisis occurs which requires more troops than the volunteer
military can supply. Congress passes and the President signs
legislation which starts a draft.
2. THE LOTTERY
A lottery based on birthdays determines the order in which
registered men are called up by Selective Service. The first
to be called, in a sequence determined by the lottery, will be
men whose 20th birthday falls during that year, followed, if
needed, by those aged 21, 22, 23, 24 and 25. 18-year-olds and
those turning 19 would probably not be drafted.
3. ALL PARTS OF SELECTIVE SERVICE ARE ACTIVATED
The Agency activates and orders its State Directors and
Reserve Forces Officers to report for duty. See also Agency
4. PHYSICAL, MENTAL, AND MORAL EVALUATION OF REGISTRANTS
Registrants with low lottery numbers are ordered to report for
a physical, mental, and moral evaluation at a Military
Entrance Processing Station to determine whether they are fit
for military service. Once he is notified of the results of
the evaluation, a registrant will be given 10 days to file a
claim for exemption, postponement, or deferment. See also
5. LOCAL AND APPEAL BOARDS ACTIVATED AND INDUCTION NOTICES
Local and Appeal Boards will process registrant claims. Those
who pass the military evaluation will receive induction
orders. An inductee will have 10 days to report to a local
Military Entrance Processing Station for induction.
6. FIRST DRAFTEES ARE INDUCTED
According to current plans, Selective Service must deliver the
first inductees to the military within 193 days from the onset
of a crisis.
SELECTIVE SERVICE LOTTERY
If and when the Congress and the President reinstate a
military draft, the Selective Service System would conduct a
National Draft Lottery to determine the order in which young
men would be drafted.
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.
For example, if a draft were held in 1998, those men born in
1978 would be considered first. If a young man turns 21 in the
year of the draft, he would be in the second priority, in
turning 22 he would be in the third priority, and so forth
until the year in which he turns 26 at which time he is over
the age of liability. Younger men would not be called in that
year until men in the 20-25 age group are called.
Because of the enormous impact of this lottery, it would be
conducted publicly, with full coverage by the media.
Accredited observers from public interest groups will have
full access to observe the proceedings.
To make the lottery as fair as possible, the National
Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) developed a
unique random calendar and number selection program for
Selective Service. Using this random selection method for
birthdays, each day of the year is selected by computer in a
random manner, and that date is placed in a capsule. The
capsules are then loaded in a large drum on a random basis. By
the same method, numbers from 1 to 365 (366 for men born in a
leap year) are also selected in a random fashion, placed in
capsules, and the capsules are placed into a second drum. The
process, repeated a second time, results in two sets of drums.
Official observers certify that the capsule-filling and
drum-loading were conducted according to established
procedures. This certification is secured to each drum; they
are sealed and placed in secure storage. Should a lottery be
conducted, one of the first actions would be an inspection of
these stored drums and the selection of a set to be used in
Here is how the lottery would work: One capsule is drawn from
the drum containing birth dates January 1 through December 31.
One capsule is then drawn from the drum containing the
sequence numbers from 1 through 365 (366 if the draft will
call men born during a leap year) and the date and number are
paired to establish the sequence number for each birth date.
This is done in full view of all observers, officials, and the
For example, if the date of August 4 is drawn first from the
"date" drum, and the sequence number of 32 is drawn from the
"number's" drum at the same time, then those men turning 20 on
August 4 would be ordered for induction processing only after
men whose birthdays drew sequence numbers 1 through 31. The
drawings continue until all 365 (or 366) birthdays of the year
are paired with a sequence number.
After the lottery is completed and results certified, the
sequence of call is transmitted to the Selective Service
System's Data Management Center. Almost immediately the first
induction notices are prepared and sent via mailgram to men
whose birth dates drew the lowest lottery numbers.
This system, based on random selection of birth dates, with
the order of priority for reporting assigned in a
scientifically random manner, is a fair and equitable method
of calling men to serve.
Men are not classified now. Classification is the process of
determining who is available for military service and who is
deferred or exempted. Classifications are based on each
individual registrant's circumstances and beliefs. A
classification program would go into effect when Congress and
the President decide to resume a draft. Then, men who are
qualified for induction would have the opportunity to file a
claim for exemptions, deferments, and postponements from
military service. Here is a list of some, though not all,
classifications and what they mean:
1-A - available immediately for military service.
1-O Conscientious Objector- conscientiously opposed to both
types (combatant and non-combatant) of military training and
service - fulfills his service obligation as a civilian
alternative service worker.
1-A-O Conscientious Objector - conscientiously opposed to
training and military service requiring the use of arms -
fulfills his service obligation in a noncombatant position
within the military.
2-D Ministerial Students - deferred from military service.
3-A Hardship Deferment - deferred from military service
because service would cause hardship upon his family.
4-C Alien or Dual National - sometimes exempt from military
4-D Ministers of Religion - exempted from military service.
Student Postponements - a college student may have his
induction postponed until he finishes the current semester or,
if a senior, the end of the academic year. A high school
student may have his induction postponed until he graduates or
until he reaches age 20. Appealing a Classification - A man
may appeal his classification to a Selective Service Appeal
CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION AND ALTERNATIVE SERVICE
conscientious objector is one who is opposed to serving in the
armed forces and/or bearing arms on the grounds of moral or
HOW TO APPLY
In general, once a man gets a notice that he has been found
qualified for military service, he has the opportunity to make
a claim for classification as a conscientious objector (CO). A
registrant making a claim for Conscientious Objection is
required to appear before his local board to explain his
He may provide written documentation or include personal
appearances by people he knows who can attest to his claims.
His written statement might explain:
he arrived at his beliefs; and
influence his beliefs have had on how he lives his life.
The local board will decide whether to grant or deny a CO
classification based on the evidence a registrant has
A man may appeal a Local Board's decision to a Selective
Service District Appeal Board. If the Appeal Board also denies
his claim, but the vote is not unanimous, he may further
appeal the decision to the National Appeal Board. See also
Beliefs which qualify a registrant for CO status may be
religious in nature, but don't have to be. Beliefs may be
moral or ethical; however, a man's reasons for not wanting to
participate in a war must not be based on politics,
expediency, or self-interest. In general, the man's lifestyle
prior to making his claim must reflect his current claims.
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. The person whose beliefs allow him to serve
in the military but in a noncombatant capacity will serve in
the Armed Forces but will not be assigned training or duties
that include using weapons.
Conscientious Objectors opposed to serving in the military
will be placed in the Selective Service Alternative Service
Program. This program attempts to match COs with local
employers. Many types of jobs are available, however the job
must be deemed to make a meaningful contribution to the
maintenance of the national health, safety, and interest.
Examples of Alternative Service are jobs in:
for the very young or very old
Length of service in the program will equal the amount of time
a man would have served in the military, usually 24 months.
DRAFT HAS CHANGED SINCE VIETNAM
If a draft were held today, it would be dramatically different
from the one held during the Vietnam War. A series of reforms
during the latter part of the Vietnam conflict changed the way
the draft operated to make it more fair and equitable. If a
draft were held today, there would be fewer reasons to excuse
a man from service.
Before Congress made improvements to the draft in 1971, a man
could qualify for a student deferment if he could show he was
a full-time student making satisfactory progress toward a
Under the current draft law, a college student can have his
induction postponed only until the end of the current
semester. A senior can be postponed until the end of the
If a draft were held today, local boards would better
represent the communities they serve.
The changes in the new draft law made in 1971 included the
provision that membership on the boards was required to be as
representative as possible of the racial and national origin
of registrants in the area served by the board.
A draft held today would use a lottery to determine the order
Before the lottery was implemented in the latter part of the
Vietnam conflict, Local Boards called men classified 1-A, 18
1/2 through 25 years old, oldest first. This resulted in
uncertainty for the potential draftees during the entire time
they were within the draft-eligible age group. A draft held
today would use a lottery system under which a man would spend
only one year in first priority for the draft - either the
calendar year he turned 20 or the year his deferment ended.
Each year after that, he would be placed in a succeedingly
lower priority group and his liability for the draft would
lessen accordingly. In this way, he would be spared the
uncertainty of waiting until his 26th birthday to be certain
he would not be drafted.
Sons" and the draft
Contrary to popular belief, "only sons," "the last son to
carry the family name," and "sole surviving sons" must
register and they can be drafted. However, they may be
entitled to a peacetime deferment if there is a military death
in the immediate family.
Provisions regarding the survivors of veterans were written
into Selective Service law after World War II. Details have
varied over the years, but the basic premise remains the same;
where a family member has been lost as a result of military
service, the remaining family members should be protected
insofar as possible.
It is important to keep in mind that the provisions are
directly related to service-connected deaths. The mere fact
that a man is the only child or only son does not qualify him
for exemption - he must be the survivor of one who died as a
result of military service.
The present law provides a peacetime exemption for anyone
whose parent or sibling was killed in action, died in line of
duty, or died later as a result of disease or injury incurred
in line of duty while serving in the armed forces of the
United States. Also included are those whose parent or sibling
is in a captured or missing status as a result of service in
the armed forces during any period of time. This is known as
the "surviving son or brother" provision. A man does not have
to be the only surviving son in order to qualify; if there are
four sons in a family and one dies in the line of duty, the
remaining three would qualify for surviving son or brother
status under the present law.
The surviving son or brother provision is applicable only in
peacetime. It does not apply in time of war or national
emergency declared by the Congress.
The original law, passed in 1948, exempted the sole surviving
son of a family where one or more sons or daughters died as a
result of military service. No restriction existed at that
time to limit the exemption to peacetime. The provision was
intended to protect families which had lost a member in World
In 1964, recognizing that sons of World War II veterans were
reaching draft age, Congress changed the law to include the
sole surviving son of a family where the father, or one or
more sons or daughters, died as a result of military service.
At this time the peacetime-only restriction was also added to
A further change was made in 1971, expanding the exemption to
any son, not necessarily the sole surviving son, of a family
where the father, brother or sister died as a result of
military service. This provision was recently expanded to
(Source: US Selective Service System)