Should the Selective Service be Abolished?

Is it time to abolish the Selective Service System? A group of lawmakers in the House think so and have introduced legislation that would do just that.

Is it time to get rid of the Selective Service System? A group of lawmakers in the House think so.

Legislation is being introduced in the House (H.R. 4523) that would abolish the Selective Service System, an independent agency that maintains a database of all males between 18 and 25 years of age in case conscription is needed.

The bill is being introduced by Reps. Mike Coffman (R-CO), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). In promoting the legislation, they note that it would save taxpayers $23 million per year.

The draft ended in 1973 with the last of the draftees finishing their two year obligated service commitment in the U.S. Army in 1975.

After the draft ended, the Selective Service System was disbanded and the requirement for 18-year-olds to register was ended. However, in 1980, President Jimmy Carter reinstituted the Selective Service System and the requirement for all 18-year-olds to register for the draft following the invasion of Afghanistan in December of 1979 by the former Soviet Union.

The requirement remains in effect today despite the fact that the Pentagon has never requested a return to the draft despite the first Gulf War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This history is part of the impetus the House Members are using for the legislation.

The Congressmen also pointed to a 2012 Government Accountability Office report which concluded that if the Selective Service were called into action and mobilization was necessary, the agency would be unable to satisfy the statutory objective of providing inductees to the Department of Defense within 193 days and the agency’s budget would increase to more than $450 million.

“Maintaining the Selective Service simply makes no sense. In 1973, the last draftee entered the Army and since then, despite the first Gulf War and subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon has never considered reinstituting the draft,” said Coffman, a Marine Corps combat veteran. “Our all-volunteer military has given us the most elite fighting force in the history of this country.”

“Not only will abolishing the selective service save the U.S. taxpayers money, it will remove an undue burden on our nation’s young people,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio. “We haven’t utilized the draft since 1973, yet young men who don’t register for the selective service are still penalized by the U.S. government, particularly with regards to their federal student loans. We need to get rid of this mean-spirited and outdated system and trust that if the need should arise Americans – both male and female – will answer the call to defend our nation.”

The introduction of this bill follows another introduced in the House this month which would require women to register for the Selective Service. Introduced by Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Ryan Zinke (R-MT), the bill was put forth to stimulate further debate in Congress about the Pentagon’s decision to allow women in combat.

Whether or not it will lead to a debate in Congress remains to be seen, but it certainly led to a huge debate among users. To read more about the bill or to weigh in on the debate, see our blog post: Should Women Be Required to Register for the Draft?.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.