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Selective Service

Selective Service

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

THE SELECTIVE SERVICE IN THE EARLY-TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

BIBLIOGRAPHY

During major military conflicts in which the United States has been involved throughout its history, the government has utilized various programs and forms of military conscription in order to draft male citizens to the armed forces. While no draft has been in place since 1973, the Selective Service exists as an independent agency within the federal government to administer the registration of eighteen-year-old males, which is required by law, and conduct a draft should a need for military manpower over and above a volunteer force arise. An individual who is appointed by the president of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate directs the Selective Service System.

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

Congress passed the first military conscription act on March 3, 1863, during the Civil War. The act authorized President Abraham Lincoln (18091865) to draft men between the ages of twenty and forty-five into military service for the Union forces. The law, which included the option of draftees to pay a commutation fee of $300 to escape enlistment, provoked protests in New York City by those who saw it as unfairly protecting the wealthy.

Lincoln was forced to send federal troops to quell violent mobs. The Confederate States also instituted conscription in 1862, and it proved just as unpopular in the South as in the North. The next military draft law in the United States was passed in 1917; the Selective Service Act gave the president the power to conscript men for service during World War I.

As American involvement in World War II approached, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (18821945) signed the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. This act created the first peacetime draft and established the Selective Service as an independent federal agency. The original legislation called for a service commitment of twelve months but was expanded to eighteen months following direct U.S. engagement in hostilities. Men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five who registered with the Selective Service were eligible to be inducted into the army and Marine Corps, and more than 10,000,000 men were inducted between 1940 and 1947. New legislation in 1948 reduced the mandatory registration age range to between eighteen and twenty-six. Military conscription continued during the Korean War in the 1950s and, most notably and controversially, during the Vietnam War.

Beginning in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson (19081973) was authorized by Congress to increase the number of troops in Vietnam, and by early 1968 the United States had more than 500,000 troops there. Tens of thousands of young men were drafted through the Selective Service lottery, while thousands of others avoided service through exemptionsalso called defermentsgranted by the several regional Selective Service draft boards around the nation based on educational commitments, membership in the clergy, medical restrictions, membership in the National Guard, and other obligations. Critics of the draft process noted an inordinate number of minorities had been selected, and questioned the randomness of the lottery. As in the past, the draft was seen as unfairly singling out those without the economic means to avoid service. As the number of U.S. soldiers killed in action rose and the war became increasingly unpopular, the draft became a focal point for antiwar protestors. In 1973 President Richard M. Nixon (19131994) signed legislation that ended the draft, and those joining the military thereafter did so as volunteers.

THE SELECTIVE SERVICE IN THE EARLY-TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

Despite the end of the draft, in the early-twenty-first century the Selective Service exists as a contingency in the event of a draft. All males in the United States must register within thirty days of their eighteenth birthdays; that requirement applies to citizens and aliens alike. Registrants may sign up via mail, at a U.S. post office, or on a student federal financial aid form. Because the Selective Service does not apply draft status classification to registrants when there is no draft, disabled men must also register. Similarly men who are conscientious objectors to war must register with the Selective Service, since there is no place on the registration form to indicate objection to induction into the armed services. The mere act of registering, however, does not guarantee a man will be inducted in the event of a draft. As it did during previous wars where a draft was in place, the Selective Service would classify registrants to determine eligibility for induction and deferments when and if a draft is reinstated. Additionally, according to its mission statement, the Selective Service would devise an alternative service program for those classified as conscientious objectors.

Females are not required to register with the Selective Service. Congress has explicitly stated in all Selective Service legislation that only males are required to register. In a 1981 case challenging the constitutionality of that particular clause (Rostker v. Goldberg ), the Supreme Court ruled that Congress was well within its authority to exclude women from registration with the Selective Service because the purpose of the legislation is to raise and regulate armies and navies for combat action, and women are excluded from nearly every type of military combat. President William J. Clinton (b. 1946) ordered a review of the policy regarding females and Selective Service registration in 1994, and the Department of Defense reported that the process of exclusion remained justifiable because of combat regulations and restrictions but noted the need to revisit the issue as the roles of female soldiers expand in the future.

In the event Congress passes legislation reinstating the draft, a National Draft Lottery would be conducted to determine the order in which men would be drafted for induction. The lottery would be based upon the birth dates of registrants, beginning with those men twenty years of age during that calendar year. A major difference from the Vietnam draft-era is that registrants who are eighteen and nineteen years old during the year of the draft would most likely not be called, as opposed to the great number of men under the age of twenty called to Vietnam. The lottery would be conducted in public and under the auspices of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in order to insure as random a lottery as possible.

SEE ALSO Civil-Military Relation; Military; National Service Programs; Pacifism; Peace Movements; U.S. Civil War; Vietnam War; World War I; World War II

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Flynn, George Q. 2002. Conscription and Democracy: The Draft in France, Great Britain, and the United States. Westport, CT: Greenwood.

Graham, John R. 1980. Constitutional History of the Military Draft. Hudson, WI: Ross & Haines.

Holmes, Richard. 1985. Acts of War. New York: Free Press.

Huntington, Samuel P. 2005. The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.

Kusch, Frank. 2001. All American Boys: Draft Dodgers in Canada from the Vietnam War. Westport, CT: Praeger Publications.

McNamara, Robert S. 1995. In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. New York: Random House.

Rostker v. Goldberg, 453 U.S. 57 (1981).

Selective Service System. http://www.sss.gov.

Matthew May

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selective service

selective service, in U.S. history, term for conscription.

Conscription was established (1863) in the U.S. Civil War, but proved unpopular (see draft riots). The law authorized release from service to anyone who furnished a substitute and, at first, to those who paid $300. General conscription was reintroduced in World War I with the Selective Service Act of 1917. All men from 21 to 30 years of age (later extended 18 to 45), inclusive, had to register. Exemptions from service were granted to men who had dependent families, indispensable duties at home, or physical disabilities. Conscientious objector status was granted to members of pacifist religious organizations, but they had to perform alternative service. Other war objectors were imprisoned, where several died. By the end of World War I about 2,800,000 men had been inducted.

The United States first adopted peacetime conscription with the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. The act provided that not more than 900,000 men were to be in training at any one time, and it limited service to 12 months—later (1941) extended to 18 months. After the United States entered World War II, a new selective service act made men between 18 and 45 liable for military service and required all men between 18 and 65 to register. The terminal point of service was extended to six months after the war. From 1940 until 1947—when the wartime selective service act expired after extensions by Congress—over 10,000,000 men were inducted. A new selective service act was passed in 1948 that required all men between 18 and 26 to register and that made men from 19 to 26 liable for induction for 21 months' service, which would be followed by 5 years of reserve duty.

When the Korean War broke out, the 1948 law was replaced (1951) by the Universal Military Training and Service Act. The length of service was extended to 24 months, and the minimum age for induction was reduced to 181/2 years. The main purpose of the Reserve Forces Act of 1955 was to strengthen the reserve forces and the National Guard. It required six years of duty, including both reserve and active duty. The Military Selective Service Act of 1967 required all men between the ages of 18 and 26 to register for service. The regular exemptions along with educational deferments were granted. These loopholes and other technicalities tended to discriminate against working-class and poor men, and thus a higher percentage from these groups were drafted.

Due to this perceived discrimination by class and also because of the great unpopularity of the Vietnam War, conscription became a major social issue. There were numerous demonstrations at draft boards and induction centers. Many young men evaded the draft through technicalities or fraud; thousands fled the country or went to prison. In 1973 conscription was abolished in favor of an all-volunteer army. President Gerald R. Ford granted clemency to many draft resisters in 1974, and President Jimmy Carter granted amnesty to draft resisters in 1977. In 1980, Congress reinstituted draft registration for men 18 to 25 years old. If there were to be a crisis, registered men would be inducted as determined by age and a random lottery.

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Selective Service System

SELECTIVE SERVICE SYSTEM

The Selective Service System is responsible for supplying U.S. armed forces with people in the event of a national emergency. It is an independent agency of the federal government's executive branch.

The agency was established in its first form in 1917 and is authorized by the Military Selective Service Act (50 U.S.C.A. app. 451–471a). This act, as amended, requires male citizens of the United States, and all other male persons who are in the United States and who are between the ages of eighteen and a half and twenty-six, to register for possible military service. It exempts active members of the armed forces, personnel of foreign embassies and consulates, and nonimmigrant aliens.

All registrants between the ages of eighteen and a half and twenty-six, except those who are deferred, are liable for training and service in the armed forces should Congress decide to conscript registrants. Those who have received a deferral are liable for training and service until age thirty-five. Aliens are not liable for training and service until they have remained in the United States for more than one year. In the event of the conscription of registrants into the armed forces, conscientious objectors are required to do civilian work in place of conscription.

In 1980 President jimmy carter issued a proclamation (Proclamation 4771, July 2, 1980) requiring all males who were born after January 1, 1960, and who have attained age eighteen, to register with the Selective Service. Registration is conducted at U.S. post offices and at U.S. embassies and consulates outside the United States. The Selective Service maintains several field offices in addition to its headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.

cross-references

Armed Services; Solomon Amendment.

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selective service

se·lec·tive serv·ice • n. service in the armed forces under conscription.

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"selective service." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Selective Service

Selective Service. See Conscription.

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"Selective Service." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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