Column: Why it's time to end the anachronistic draft registry

Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, where he announced the latest in his Force of the Future reforms. Carter intends to double the length of fully paid maternity leave for female service members, and will also boost time off for paternity leave and adoptions (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

On Dec. 3, 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that women are allowed to serve in front line combat positions. Last Thursday, Feb. 4, legislation was introduced to Congress calling for an expansion of the Selective Service System (SSS), the U.S. equivalent to a draft registry, to include women.

For some legislators, this is a chance to further women’s equality in the service, and for others, it is a chance to review the decision to allow women in combat positions in the first place. However, legislators should first examine the relevance and benefits of the SSS and recognize that after decades of irrelevance, it is more important to terminate the agency than expand it to match current military practices.  

The SSS was created during World War I by the Selective Service Act and required all men between the ages of 21 and 30 to enlist. Between 1948 and 1973, men were drafted into the military for positions that were not filled by volunteers both in times of war and peace.

The draft was ended in 1973 under President Nixon’s administration, and the US military has been on an all-volunteer basis since then. Yet, in 1980, President Carter brought back a registration requirement for men between 18 and 25, which still remains in place today. The bill introduced on February 4th has proposed to expand this registry to women.

The SSS currently has 14 million names and addresses of men between 18 and 25 on file. These files and similar ones collected over the past decades have been unnecessary. For decades, the US Armed Forces have been operating on an all-volunteer basis, and regardless of gender, young adults throughout the US feel safe from conscription.

Compulsory service has not been essential for decades. Since the end of the draft in 1973, American wars have been fought by smaller forces. Even with heightened support for deployment following the tragedies of Paris and San Bernardino, a draft would both be unnecessary and counterproductive.

The size of an army is not the only factor of its performance. The volunteer basis of our armed forces strengthens the institution. The voluntary decision to serve in the military displays a soldier’s dedication to the armed forces. This commitment affects both the general attitude and the effectiveness of the military.

The military is also more willing to invest in the training of its soldiers with the knowledge that those who willingly signed up are more likely to remain in the service. This makes further investment in the training of soldiers mutually beneficial. Those drafted in the '40s through '60s were not expected to continue their service after they fulfilled their requirement, so they received minimal training. The size of an army does not indicate its greatness, but the dedication of its soldiers and the quality of their training do are important factors. 

People view the SSS as a safety mechanism in the event that the US enters a situation where compulsory service becomes essential. However, Congress has previously passed conscription legislation specialized to the danger they faced, and in an emergency, they can do that again. If the time comes for another draft, legislators will have to consider the possibility of drafting women as well.

Just as ages and requirements of the draft have changed throughout history from the introduction of the SSS in 1917, the necessities and influential factors of our country will change before another event requires this type of action. It is as important to have equality in the military as it is for any other field of work, but changing an anachronistic piece of legislation to reflect this instead of understanding its irrelevance is not beneficial to the current or future armed forces.


Alyssa Luis is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at alyssa.luis@uconn.edu.