Crunch Time in Congress for Selective Service

In the most significant Congressional debate about compulsory military service in the U.S. in decades, Congress is now actively considering multiple proposals related to draft registration and Selective Service.

Ending draft registration would be one of the most profound victories for the peace movement in decades, made possible by nonviolent mass direct action in the form of quiet and spontaneous but pervasive and sustained noncompliance by young people that has rendered draft registration unenforceable and the registration list useless for an actual draft.

By preventing a draft, young people and their resistance have helped protect us all against wider war. Ending draft registration would finalize that victory by forcing an admission that a draft is not an option – because young people will not submit voluntarily and cannot be compelled to comply – and removing the draft from the arsenal of war planning.

A decision will be made by Congress by the end of this year, with the next vote on September 1st when Congress returns from its summer vacation. Further votes will occur at unpredictable times through the fall.

As young people potentially subject to conscription into the military, and as allies to young people and their direct action movement, now is the time for us to spread the word that this is happening, tell our US Representatives and Senators to support the Selective Service Repeal Act (H.R. 2509 and S. 1139), and prepare to support young women who may, starting as early as 2023, have to decide at age 18 whether to sign up to kill or be killed on command of the US government.

Congress might decide to do nothing and allow compulsory draft registration (of men but not women) to continue. That would be bad in itself, potentially locking in the present system – and the assumption by war planners that contingency plans and ongoing preparation for a draft allow them to assume an endless reserve of soldiers for unlimited wars – for decades more before this system is again reconsidered.

More likely, Congress will decide by the end of this year, through competing proposals for amendments attached to the must-pass annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), either to expand draft registration to young women as well as young men, or to end it entirely.

The version of the NDAA approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 21st includes a section that would expand draft registration to women. The NDAA and proposals for amendments to that section will be debated and voted on by the full Senate sometime after the August recess. A floor vote is expected on amendments related to Selective Service.

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) will debate and vote on its version of the NDAA on September 1st. The version approved by the HASC, including whatever provisions related to Selective Service are approved by the HASC, will then be considered by the full House. Amendments related to

Selective Service may be considered both in the HASC and by the full House.

As antiwar and anti-draft activists said in a joint letter to leaders of both parties in the HASC:

“The choice is not between continuing male-only draft registration and expanding registration to women. The real choice is whether to expand registration to women or to end it entirely….

“As we and many other peace-loving Americans see it, this is a choice about militarism, not a choice about gender equality. Expanding draft registration to women would bring about a semblance of equality in war (although women in the military would likely still be subject to disproportionate sexual harassment and abuse). Ending draft registration would bring about real equality in peace and freedom.”

Meanwhile, there is cause for significant but partial celebration: As of this Monday, August 16th, Selective Service registration is longer a prerequisite for Federal student aid (although it remains a requirement for drivers licenses and/or state student aid in some but not all states). The questions will remain on the FAFSA form for another 2 years until the form can be updated, but they can now be ignored without affecting FAFSA processing or eligibility for any Federal student aid.

You can learn more about what’s happening with Selective Service and what you can do by joining one of these upcoming informational webinars sponsored by endorsers of the Selective Service Repeal Act:

Edward Hasbrouck maintains the website and publishes the "Resistance News" newsletter. He was imprisoned in 1983-1984 for organizing resistance to draft registration.