Women in the Draft


The Series

The Millennial Theologian
The Apologist Father
The Female Veteran

The draft has a storied past in the US. The last time someone was drafted was 72 or 73. Men are still required to register, but it would take approval by Congress and the president for the draft to happen again.

The Draft

Who registers
  • Males, 18-25 (currently 16 million).
  • Citizens, green card holders, seasonal agricultural workers with no H-2A Visa, refugees, parolees, asylees, illegal immigrants.
  • Medical and mental hospital patients and prisoners do not unless they're released, and then they have 30 days.
  • Active duty military members do not unless they separate and then they have 30 days.
  • Male-to-female transgender do; female-to-male do not.
  • Disabled do if they can reasonably leave their homes independently (although they may receive an exemption if called up).
  • Residents of Puerto Rico, Guam, Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands do.
  • Residents of Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, American Samoa, and Palau may need to if they live in the US for longer than a year.
Sequence of Draft
  • Congress and president must authorize the draft. The legislation may alter any of the stipulations now in place.
  • A lottery is held (see below); starts with men who will turn 20 the current year, then goes up by year to 25 year-olds; 18 and 19 year-olds will probably not be drafted until they turn 20.
  • The draftees report.
  • The registrants are given physical, mental, and moral evaluations; conscientious objection, deferment, and exemption statuses are determined.
  • Draftees may appeal board findings before their report date.
  • Induction orders are sent.
  • Draftees are inducted into the service.
  • University students to the end of the current semester; university seniors to the end of the academic year.
  • Ministerial students.
  • Hardship for family issues.
  • High school student until graduation or age 20, whichever comes first.
  • Ministers.
  • Certain active elected officials.
Conscientious Objection
  • Religious/moral reasons; not political (i.e.: because of disagreement with current war), expediency, or lifestyle.
  • If opposed to violence, will be assigned to a noncombatant role.
  • If opposed to military, will be posted to a civilian job "deemed to make a meaningful contribution to the maintenance of the national health, safety, and interest," like conservation, child/elder care, education, health care.
  • Two large drums with balls, one drum's balls has dates, the other has numbers 1 to 365 (or 366 if a leap year).
  • Balls chosen from each drum.
  • The date is the day the draftees turn 20 (or whatever year); the number is the order in which those birthday boys will be called.
  • So if August 7th is matched with #1, those who turn 20 on August 7th will be the first group to be called.
Health Care Personnel Delivery System (HCPDS)
  • A possible, wartime-only registration and draft for medical personnel, independent of the general draft.
  • Men and women; 20-45 years of age.
  • Requires approval of Congress and president and legislation.
  • Deferment allowed for medical personnel who are essential for their community.
Women in the Draft Now

There have been bills in the past to include women in the draft, but none got very far.

In recent years, some combat positions have been opened for women. In December, Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered the Marines and Army to open up combat positions to women — despite recommendations from the Marines that some positions still be closed (infantry, armor, recon, some special ops). Carter insisted it was a "joint force" issue ("joint force" is the movement that all forces work together; presumably this means the Army and Marines can't have different regulations on women in combat). Guidelines include no quotas; assignment based on ability, not gender; needs and effectiveness of the units are priority.

The Marine Commandant and the Army Chief of Staff testified to the Senate that if women can fill combat roles, they should also be eligible for the draft. Women weren't drafted before because the draft was primarily for combat positions, which women couldn't fill. The two Republicans (one of whom was a Marine, the other a SEAL) who introduced the draft bill were against the military's decision to open combat positions to women. They don't want their bill to go through; they just want Congress to be able to discuss and weigh in on the women-in-combat decision.

Ash Carter: undergrad in physics and medieval history from Yale; Rhodes Scholar; theoretical physicist; former professor of science and international affairs at Harvard; expert on physics, technology, national security, and management; served in the DoD from 93-96, 09-present. Worked international strategic nuke policy, equipment acquisitions, budget and personnel. Used personal email for official business; unknown if classified material was included. Warned about increased threat of terrorism in 1997. Hawkish; supported 2003 invasion of Iraq as well as preventative wars against North Korea and Iran, and considered beefing defenses in Europe. Father was a WWII vet and Navy doctor

Bolivia, Chad, Eritrea, Israel, Mozambique, and North Korea draft women. Norway has female conscription. In Israel, over a third of the women claim a religious exemption. The UK conscripted a very small number of women during WWII (women with dependent children and/or social jobs were exempt).


A non-combatant role does not mean a position that doesn't normally see combat. Admin, drone pilots, maintenance, supply, cyber, and other jobs will probably not have a gun fired at them, but it doesn't mean they will never be in harm's way. Runways get bombed, and sometimes admin and supply troops are used for supply runs in dangerous territory. The waters are getting even murkier as civilian contractors fly combat drone runs.

A legal combatant is any military member (infantry through admin) except for medical and religious personnel. Civilians are also non-combatants. If a non-combatant engages in a hostile act, they can be prosecuted by law and forfeit their protection under the Geneva Convention as a non-combatant. Non-combatants are not to be attacked. Medical personnel may use small arms to defend themselves if they are unlawfully attacked.

Image Credit: Neal Kelsey; "Harvey Kelsey Draft Card (2)"; Creative Commons

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Published 2-29-16