Ending the Military Draft


ANNCR: Ending the Military Draft – On Today’s Congressional Moment

The idea of conscription, or a military draft, is an ancient one, used around the world. In America, a form of conscription where draftees could escape service by hiring a substitute or paying the government three hundred dollars was used during the Civil War. At the start of World War One, Congress passed the Selective Service Act, which created the Selective Service System to handle national conscription.

The draft became particularly controversial during the Vietnam War, as President Lyndon Johnson committed large numbers of ground troops to the war, and casualties mounted. Many people felt that draft exemptions and loopholes were putting poor, working men at a disadvantage. Demonstrations at induction centers and draft boards ensued, and hundreds of thousands of men attempted to evade the draft. Many fled to Canada, and some were sent to prison.

In 1969, a draft lottery system was instituted. It placed all eligible men in a pool, and assigned an induction number based on their birth date. This system failed to quell charges of unfairness, and the anti-draft movement expanded.

Under increasing pressure, Congress discontinued the draft in 1973, and the new, all-volunteer army began. The requirement to register with the Selective Service upon turning 18 still exists as a back-up for the military in case of national emergency, and the efficacy of an all-volunteer army continues to be analyzed with current global political events in mind.

This is Lee Hamilton. Congressional decisions impact all our lives. To find out more about how Congress works, or to get involved in your government, visit the Center On Congress Web site at congress.indiana.edu.