Congress Punts Decision on Draft Registration Into 2022 or 2023

Congress has once again deferred making a decision as to whether to finally end draft registration or to expand it to include young women as well as young men.

What happened with Selective Service and the Fiscal Year 2022 NDAA?

The final version of this year’s this year’s annual National Defense [sic] Authorization Act (NDAA) approved by Congress on December 14th and signed into law today by President Biden makes no change to the provisions of the Military Selective Service Act (MSSA) which authorize the President to order men, but not women, to register with the Selective Service System (SSS) for a possible military draft. This leaves the current Selective Service registration and address reporting requirements (applicable to young men but not women) in effect, and the issue unresolved.

Earlier this year, both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees voted, without debate or hearings on Selective Service, to recommend that the Fiscal Year 2022 NDAA include a section that would have expanded draft registration to women. A version of the NDAA including this provision was approved by the full House of Representatives (without a floor vote on any of the proposed amendments related to Selective Service), and was on the verge of approval in the Senate.

However, in the face of a deadlock in the Senate over this and other provisions of the NDAA, House and Senate leaders worked out a back-room package of compromises that included removing the section of the FY 2022 NDAA that would have expanded draft registration to women.

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US Senate Prepares To Expand Selective Service to Women as Well as Men

After months of delay, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced on Sunday that the Senate is "likely" to vote this week on an annual defense [sic] bill which includes a provision – already approved by the House of Representatives in its version of the bill – to extend the President’s authority to order men to register with the Selective Service System for a possible military draft to include women as well.

Last month, after the Senate Armed Services Committee, meeting in closed session, approved and sent to the Senate floor a version of the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would expand draft registration to young women as well as young men, a coalition of opponents of the draft called on the Senate to end the failed draft registration program entirely instead of trying to expand it.

An amendment (S.Amdt.4161) that would replace the portion of the Senate version of the NDAA expanding draft registration with the provisions of the Selective Service Repeal Act has been proposed by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY).

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House Votes This Week on Selective Service

Key votes in the U.S. House of Representatives on proposals to repeal (unlikely), expand to women (most likely), or eliminate some of the penalties for violations of the Military Selective Service Act will take place this week as part of the debate on this year’s annual National Defense [sic] Authorization Act (NDAA).

Here’s a calendar of the Congressional and Presidential actions that are leading up to women being required to register and report address changes to the Selective Service System starting when women born in 2005 turn 18 in 2023.

Calls to members of the House are needed now, especially to members of the House Rules Committee who will decide this Monday whether the full House will debate or vote on whether to expand draft registration to women (or will enact this as part of a larger bill with no line-item debate or vote on Selective Service).

The version of the NDAA as reported to the House floor by the House Armed Services Committee, which will be enacted unless amended, includes a section that would would expand Selective Service registration to young women as well as young men.

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House and Senate Armed Services Committees Vote To Make Women Register for the Draft

On September 1st the House Armed Services Committee joined the Senate Armed Services Committee in voting 35-24 to expand registration for a possible military draft to include young women as well as young men.

Following this House committee vote and an earlier Senate committee vote in July (before Congress’s summer vacation), the versions of the annual "must-pass" National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to be considered later this fall in both the House and Senate will include provisions requiring women to register for the draft within 30 days of their 18th birthday and report to the Selective Service System each time they change their address until their 26th birthday, as young men have been required to do since 1980.

An alternative compromise amendment to suspend draft registration unless the President declared a national emergency and put the Selective Service System into standby was submitted before today’s committee session, but ruled out of order on the basis of arcane PAYGO procedural rules. Under the same rules, the amendment to the NDAA to expand draft registration to women was ruled in order, considered, and adopted without any antiwar opposition from members of the committee.

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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.

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Supreme Court Won’t Review Constitutionality of Current Male-Only Draft Registration Requirement

The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it has denied the petition for certiorari in the case of National Coalition For Men v. Selective Service System.

The Supreme Court’s action today leaves in effect the decision by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissing the complaint and the District Court judgment.

What has happened, and what does it mean for the future of Selective Service?

The Supreme Court’s self-imposed rules require the votes of four of the nine Justices to hear a case. Those votes are taken behind closed doors, and neither how many Justices (if any) voted to hear a case, nor how any individual Justice voted, are made public unless one or more Justices choose, at their own sole discretion, to disclose their vote and/or issue a written statement.

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