The Selective Service System

The United States’ Selective Service System maintains records of all male citizens and immigrants aged 18-25 so they can easily be called up in the event of a military draft. All men must register within thirty days of their 18th birthday, and registration is required to be eligible for government support like student loans. 91% of eligible men, about 17 million, are registered in the system today.

There is no corner of the world that management speak has not infiltrated. An agency which is nothing more than a glorified list has both a vision and and mission, although this did not stop them selecting the sinister acronym SSS.

America’s many incarcerated do not need to register while in prison, but must do so within thirty days of release. People born as biological women but who transition to men are not required to register.


Things like the SSS remind me how central the military is to life in the the United States. I remember going to an American Football game on a visit to the United States and being shocked to see an ‘honour call’ of soldiers killed in Iraq/Afghanistan playing over the big screens. This was followed by servicemen and women marching onto the pitch with flags to sing the national anthem.

The draft, and by association, the citizen army, is an interesting proposition. Outside of a few countries like Israel, most developed countries have adopted fully professional forces. One argument in favour of the draft and the citizen army is that it is more appropriate in a democracy that the task of defending the polity fall on all shoulders equally. It might also make politicians less eager to launch wars if they knew their sons and daughters could be in the firing line. Still, there have always been a variety of ways for the well-off to avoid service, like getting deferments by enrolling in college. Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Donald Trump all managed to avoid the draft for Vietnam one way or another.

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