What Happens During a Draft?

The Government Rules and Procedures Required to Institute a Draft

Senate chambers. Dennis Macdonald/Getty Images

Here is a brief overview of what would occur if the United States returned to a draft.

1. Congress and the President Authorize a Draft

A crisis occurs which requires more troops than the volunteer military can supply. Congress passes and the president signs legislation which starts a draft. It should be noted that the president cannot initiate a draft on his own. Congress would first have to pass legislation (both the House and Senate), and the president would have to sign the bill into law.

2. The National Draft Lottery Is Conducted

A lottery based on birthdays determines the order in which registered men are called up by Selective Service. The first to be called, in a sequence determined by the lottery, will be men whose 20th birthday falls during that year, followed, if needed, by those aged 21, 22, 23, 24 and 25. 18-year-olds and those turning 19 would probably not be drafted.

The National Draft Lottery would be conducted publicly with the proceedings being observed by accredited representatives of public interest groups to ensure legitimacy and fairness.

The actual lottery drawing is performed in a similar way to how state run lotteries select their winning numbers, using drums and air balls. There are two large drums for the draft lottery and two sets of air mix balls: one set is labeled with a date and month, January 1 through December 31; the second set is labeled with numbers 1 through 365, which will represent the sequence for induction.

In the case of a leap year, 366 balls are used. 

The balls are drawn from the first drum, and then the second drum. The date drawn indicates the birthday, while the second ball indicates the order those with that birthday are to be inducted. For example, if the date drawn is July 10 and the sequence drawn is 11, then men turning 20 on July 10th will be ordered to induction processing only after the 10 previous birthdates in positions 1 through 10 in the sequence have been ordered to induction processing.

3. All Parts of Selective Service Are Activated

The Agency activates and orders its state directors and reserve forces officers to report for duty.

4. Evaluations Performed for Physical, Mental and Moral Suitability

Registrants with low lottery numbers are ordered to report for a physical, mental, and moral evaluation at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) to determine whether they are fit for military service. Once he is notified of the results of the evaluation, a registrant will be given 10 days to file a claim for exemption, postponement, or deferment. For details, see Military Enlistment Standards.

It is possible that Congress could decide to lower the evaluation standards during a draft. However, Congress would have to do so by either including the revised standards in the draft legislation or by passing separate legislation that would have to be signed by the president.

5. Local and Appeal Boards Activated and Induction Notices Sent

Local and Appeal Boards will process registrant claims.

Those who pass the military evaluation will receive induction orders. An inductee will have 10 days to report to a local Military Entrance Processing Station for induction. 

6. First Draftees Are Inducted

According to current plans, Selective Service must deliver the first inductees to the military within 193 days from the effective date of draft legislation.

Much of the Above Information Courtesy of the Selective Service

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