Truth Behind the US House Bill That 'Automatically' Registers Men for Draft

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Every year, Congress passes a bill called the National Defense Authorization Act, which gives the U.S. military its yearly budget. On June 14, 2024, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 8070, the National Defense Authorization Act for 2025.

One provision in this version of the bill stood out stood out to a lot of people online: automatically registering all males between the ages of 18 and 26 in the Selective Service System — in more common terms, the military draft.

Snopes found that, yes, there is provision in the bill that would automatically register all eligible men with the Selective Service:

Except as otherwise provided in this title, every male citizen of the United States, and every other male person residing in the United States, between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six, shall be automatically registered under this Act by the Director of the Selective Service System.

But online postings indicate a lot of people are confused about exactly what that means, so here's what you need to know about the legislation:

'Registering For Draft' Isn't the Same Thing as 'Getting Drafted'

Under current U.S. law, anyone who was born a man and is currently between the ages of 18 and 26 is eligible and required to register for the draft. Once you turn 26, you are out of the draft.

The U.S. military has not used that list of names to call people up for military service (i.e., drafted them) since the Vietnam War, but in the case that a draft is reinstated, the U.S. needs a list of everyone eligible for service to determine who will actually be called to serve. That list is maintained by the Selective Service System and theoretically contains every man eligible for service, between the ages of 18-25. When you register for the draft, you put your name on the U.S. government's list. That's it.

After the military officially became a volunteer-only service in 1973, the draft was unlikely to be used again. Since the 1970s, the U.S. has maintained the Selective Service System and the draft list as a "break-glass-in-case-of-emergency" situation.

Although nobody has been punished for not registering since the 1980s, registering for the draft is a good idea. A law called the Thurmond Amendment, for instance, spells out that an eligible person must be registered for the draft in order to work for the government. In addition, many states still require eligible people to register in order to take out state-based student loans (this used to be required for federal loans as well, but that law was repealed in 2021).

Given that most states automatically register men for the draft when they apply for a driver's license, the provision in the bill could be viewed as an effort to streamline the registration process by automating it on a national level instead of relying on a state-by-state basis.

Is This Bill Actually Going To Become A Law?

A brief Civics 101 refresher: In order for a bill to become a law, the majority of members in both the House of Representatives and the Senate must vote "yea" on the proposed legislation, and then the president must sign it. For H.R. 8070, though one of those things happened, the bill wasn't likely to go much further.

The version of the bill passed by the Republican-controlled House was chock-full of amendments likely to stop it from passing the Democrat-controlled Senate, including bans on the money being used to provide abortion and gender-affirming care through the military's healthcare system, rollbacks on climate change protections and dismantling diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved a different version of the bill, but according to reporting from Politico, it was unclear when the whole Senate would vote on that version.

A few users online added a separate, but related claim: that under this bill, women would become eligible for the draft, as well. This is an idea that's been floated for decades. While there was a provision in the Senate's version of the bill that would require women to register for the draft, it was unlikely to become law any time soon: The Senate has passed bills requiring women to register for the draft more than once in the last decade, but those bills have never become a law, and the idea has never been successfully challenged in court.

Sources:

"Draft Cards." Selective Service System, https://www.sss.gov/history-and-records/draft-cards/. Accessed 17 June 2024.

Elkind, Elizabeth. "House Passes Defense Bill Automatically Registering Men 18-26 for Draft." Fox News, 14 June 2024, https://www.foxnews.com/politics/house-passes-defense-bill-automatically-registering-men-draft.

"National Coalition for Men, et al. v. Selective Service System, et Al." American Civil Liberties Union, https://www.aclu.org/cases/national-coalition-men-et-al-v-selective-service-system-et-al. Accessed 17 June 2024.

"New Legislation Would Require Women, like Men, to Sign up for Potential Military Draft." ABC7 Chicago, 24 July 2021, https://abc7chicago.com/women-draft-military-senate-defense-bill-selective-service/10907316/.

O'Brien, Connor. "House Republicans Narrowly Pass Defense Bill Loaded with Culture War Issues." Politico, 14 June 2024, https://www.politico.com/news/2024/06/14/house-republicans-narrowly-pass-defense-bill-loaded-with-culture-war-issues-00163453.

"Perspective | The First Time the U.S. Considered Drafting Women — 75 Years Ago." Washington Post, 21 Mar. 2019. www.washingtonpost.com, https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/03/21/first-time-us-considered-drafting-women-years-ago/.

Rogers, Mike. Servicemember Quality of Life Improvement and National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2025. H.R.8070, https://www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/house-bill/8070.

SASC Completes Markup of National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2025 | United States Senate Committee on Armed Services. 14 June 2024, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/press-releases/sasc-completes-markup-of-national-defense-authorization-act-for-fiscal-year-2025.

Selective Service Acts | History, Significance, & Facts | Britannica. 11 May 2024, https://www.britannica.com/event/Selective-Service-Acts.

"State-Commonwealth Legislation." Selective Service System, https://www.sss.gov/register/state-commonwealth-legislation/. Accessed 17 June 2024.

Steinhauer, Jennifer. "Senate Votes to Require Women to Register for the Draft." The New York Times, 15 June 2016. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/15/us/politics/congress-women-military-draft.html.

"The All-Volunteer Armed Forces." Army University Press, https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/English-Edition-Archives/January-February-2022/King-All-Volunteer-1977/. Accessed 17 June 2024.

"Women." Selective Service System, https://www.sss.gov/register/women/. Accessed 17 June 2024.