As Tensions With Iran Rise, Some Wonder Whether The Military Draft Could Return

Though young men must register with Selective Service, it would take an act of Congress to reinstate the draft.

By Terri LangfordJanuary 8, 2020 12:41 pm

For nearly 50 years, American men have been required to register with the the U.S. Selective Service at age 18 – effectively adding their names to a potential draft pool, in the event the military falls short of soldiers in time of crisis.

Within hours of the U.S. airstrike in Iraq last week that killed Iran’s top commander, online interest in the draft soared.

New York Times national reporter Sarah Mervosh found that the large number of visitors to the Selective Service System web site caused it to crash. The agency issued a statement urging people not to believe disinformation about the return of the draft. But under what conditions might it actually be revived?

Mervosh says those she talked to about a potential draft told her that a major military event such as a “total war” would have to occur before a draft would be reinstated.

“Congress would have to pass a law reinstating the draft, and the president would have to sign off,” Mervosh says. “So I think there would have to be some pretty broad political support for that to happen.”

The U.S. imposed a military draft during wars since the Civil War and during peacetime after World War II. It was abolished in 1973 in favor of the Selective Service System that requires young men to register with the government.

Mervosh says Selective Service only collects information from registrants. Men are required to register at age 18, and are barred from receiving federal financial aid or working for the federal government if they do not.

Mervosh says women have never been eligible for the draft or required to register with Selective Service. In 2015, all military combat jobs were opened to women, however. Mervosh says a federal commission is currently evaluating whether women would be required to register.


Written by Shelly Brisbin.