July 16, 2019


Legal Issues

Although the Selective Service System is authorized by the Selective Service Act, some argue the constitutionality of the act, claiming the law violates the Thirteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by providing for military conscription. Opponents of the law contend that the draft constitutes "involuntary servitude", under the amendment, which states:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

This has not been supported by the courts; as the Supreme Court said in Butler v. Perry, 240 U.S. 328 (1916):

The amendment was adopted with reference to conditions existing since the foundation of our government, and the term 'involuntary servitude' was intended to cover those forms of compulsory labor akin to African slavery which, in practical operation, would tend to produce like undesirable results. It introduced no novel doctrine with respect of services always treated as exceptional, and certainly was not intended to interdict enforcement of those duties which individuals owe to the state, such as services in the army, militia, on the jury, etc.

In the current registration system one cannot indicate that he is a conscientious objector (CO) to war when registering, but he can make such a claim when being drafted. Some men choose to write on the registration card I am a conscientious objector to war to document their conviction, even though the government will not have such a classification until there is a draft.

Today, the most likely form of draft is a one of health care workers. In 1987, Congress ordered the Selective Service System to put in place a system capable of drafting "persons qualified for practice or employment in a health care occupation", if such a special-skills draft should be ordered by Congress. In response, Selective Service published plans for the "Health Care Personnel Delivery System" (HCPDS) in 1989 and has had them ready ever since. The concept underwent a preliminary field exercise in Fiscal Year 1998, followed by a more extensive nationwide readiness exercise in Fiscal Year 1999. The HCPDS plans include women and men age 2054 in 57 job categories.


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