Selective Service: I object to a system that includes men but not women


Graphic by Erich Miller

Uncle Sam should want men and women when trying to recruit for the military.

by Bailey Spore, Managing Editor

October 2019: I am 18 years old. I am a legal adult in the United States of America. Now I can buy fireworks, skydive, go to jail, play the lottery, and swim in the pool during adult swim.

I’m also legally required to enroll for Selective Service in the case of a military draft. If this is your first time hearing of this, then you’re in the same boat as me–and many other people my age.

Selective Service is a military service that legally requires men 18 and older to enroll. Once enrolled, if a draft for military service is re-implemented, the government has a ready method for calling up support.

Failing to enroll in Selective Service within 30 days of turning 18 is a felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If one fails to register within the 30-day limit, they will also not be eligible for the FAFSA, therefore making them ineligible for financial aid. Other doors are closed, including applying for federal jobs.

The real punishment isn’t the fine, or jail time. It’s the ineligibility for financial aid. There are only a small number of people in the country who can fully pay for college without assistance. If that option is taken away from someone who didn’t register, they might lose the opportunity for further education past high school. These days, a college education is key to many futures.

If this is a criminal offense, why have so many people never heard of it before? My entire life, I have never once been told that I had to enroll for a draft. I recently turned 18 years old, and I could already be looking at jail time. (Not really, but you know what I mean).

Why are only men legally required to register? There are over 200,000 active-duty women in the U.S. armed forces. Women have proved that they can fight in wars just as men can, so why are only men required to enroll? This is a rule, if applied, needs to be applied fairly.

“I think women should be required to enroll just as men are. There are men and women in the army, so the draft should be for both genders,” said senior Michael Barger. Barger plans to enlist in the Marines after graduation.

Of course men agree with my point, but many women do as well.

“Women should have to enroll at 18. If men have to, then it should be required of women, too. Women are just as capable of being in the military as men are,” said junior Avery Robertson. Robertson verbally committed to the U.S. Naval Academy to play lacrosse after graduation, with years of service beyond that.

This problem has been front and center in the debate about the future of the Selective Service System.  In 2019, a judge ruled that the lack of women in the draft system is unconstitutional, and the military leadership studying whether the expensive government program should be modified or abolished.

There are plenty of ways that we could learn about this, but we aren’t informed. Many history classes in American schools teach about the draft, but it’s never explained that 18-year-old young men are still required to enroll. I never received a letter in the mail, a text, call, or email.  I have never seen it on the news.

Men are supposedly notified by mail that they are required to enroll, but I’ve been 18 for over a month now and have yet to get this letter. Thankfully, I had other ways of hearing about Selective Service, and I did enroll–but I’m not happy about it.

Since the law was implemented in 1917, there have been 20 indictments for people who have failed to register, and none of these were convicted in this century. Most of these people publicly admit to not registering, refusing to as a form of protest. As for compliance, the government maintains a record of state by state compliance.  In Maryland, in 2016, 84% had registered by the age of 20.  So I guess there are plenty of men like me who aren’t informed.

I strongly believe the government needs to change this law. There hasn’t been a draft since 1973. We live in a very patriotic country where lots of men–and women– are willing to enroll in the military and serve. We shouldn’t require people to enroll in a draft. It should be a choice. In this country, you are free to do what you please, but as long as this law is in place, that statement will never be true.