In the midst of World War I, it appeared that not enough men were enlisting in the army and the United States would not have enough manpower to fight Germany. In response to this shortage, Congress passed the Selective Service Act (SSA) of 1917.
Although this act only required men to sign up during wartime, the amended Selective Service Act of 1940 required men aged of 21 to 35 to be registered in the Selective Service at all times.
Since 1940, the SSA’s requirements have been changed many times and now only requires men aged 18 to 26 to be signed up, yet this is not something that is particularly well known.
“I initially heard about Selective Service when Christian told me he signed up for it,” said senior Kevin Chen. “I was sort of surprised, since it hadn’t been mentioned to me before.”
However, when the SSA says enlistment is “required,” the term is used loosely. Although technically it is against the law for men 18 to 26 to not be signed up, they will not be penalized during peacetime. Yet, if it were a time of war, these non-enlisted men could be fined up to $250,000 or be sentenced to five years in prison for not being registered in the Selective Service.
Additionally, there are some benefits that come along with being registered: only men who have registered can be considered for federal Pell Grants or federal jobs, and citizenship for those unregistered may be delayed.
“I signed up for Selective Service because I wanted to see if I could get some financial aid from schools,” said senior Christian Rider. “I was going to have to sign up for it anyway, so it is not as if I made a huge decision.”
While the United States drafts men through the independent agency of the Selective Service System, many countries deal with conscription in other ways. Some countries, such as Israel, require all citizens in able condition over 18 to serve in the army. Men serve 36 months while women serve 24, and although there are exemptions it is seen as one’s national duty to be a part of the military. Yet there are also countries on the opposite side of the spectrum that do not require any sort of conscription such as the United Kingdom, India and Japan.
Although the draft has not been used in the United States since the Vietnam War over 40 years ago, men signing up for Selective Service still are forced to consider the consequences of what could happen to them if the United States should enter a time of war requiring army drafting.
“While it is the law for men to sign up for Selective Service, the person signing up has to think of the emotional and physical toll of the possibility of going to war,” Rider said.
The draft and Selective Service alike are still heavily debated topic. In fact, in February of 2016 a bill was introduced into the House of Representatives to abolish the Selective Service System and in turn end draft registration. Many believe that only those who choose to serve and volunteer to fight for their country should be the ones in the army.
“War is a terrible thing, and to think that an anti-war advocate who loves their country might have to go to war because of the draft makes me question if this should be the patriotic duty of every man in the United States,” Rider said.