Draft Registration

June 13, 1980

Report Outline
Selective Service Regeneration
All-Volunteer Force at Issue
Opposition to Registration
Special Focus

Selective Service Regeneration

Call for Registration; Congressional Action

Two traumatic events late last year changed President Carter's thinking, and apparently much of America's, about the need for peacetime draft registration. The Nov. 4 Iranian takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the Dec. 27 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan caused him to abandon his belief that registration was not needed. While telling the nation in his State of the Union Address on Jan. 23 that “our volunteer forces are adequate for current defense needs” and expressing the hope “it will not be necessary to impose a draft,” he nevertheless said “we must be prepared for that possibility.” For this reason, the president added, “I have determined that the Selective Service System must now be revitalized.”

As part of that revitalization, Carter submitted a plan to Congress Feb. 11 for registering men and women for a future military draft. Existing law gives him authority to order the registration of men, but it cannot be carried out effectively without congressional consent. Congress, with its power of the purse, may provide — or withhold — funds to carry out a registration. Registering women — and the actual drafting of men or women — requires a further specific authorization by Congress. Carter dropped his request to register women when it became obvious that congressional opposition was overwhelming. He did pursue the request for financing the registration of 19- and 20-year-old males, and the House responded on April 22 by voting 218–180 to make $13.3 million available. The Senate on June 10 overcame a filibuster by registration foe Mark O. Hatfield, R-Ore., but parliamentary maneuvering by opponents continued through an all-night session, postponing a final vote and expected passage until later in the week.

The presidential call for a revitalized draft mechanism has engendered a national debate that encompasses not only peacetime draft registration but also the possibility of a new draft and the state of preparedness of the nation's armed forces, which since 1973 have had no draftees. In spite of Carter's assurance that the volunteer forces are adequate, most proponents of draft registration disagree. Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Manpower and Personnel, is in the forefront of congressional sentiment for reinstating the draft.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Military Draft
Aug. 19, 2005  Draft Debates
Jan. 11, 1991  Should the U.S. Reinstate the Draft?
Jun. 13, 1980  Draft Registration
Jun. 20, 1975  Volunteer Army
Nov. 17, 1971  Rebuilding the Army
Nov. 18, 1970  Expatriate Americans
Mar. 20, 1968  Resistance to Military Service
Jun. 22, 1966  Draft Law Revision
Jan. 20, 1965  Reserve Forces and the Draft
Feb. 14, 1962  Military Manpower Policies
Jun. 03, 1954  Military Manpower
Sep. 24, 1952  National Health and Manpower Resources
Oct. 24, 1950  Training for War Service
Aug. 21, 1950  Manpower Controls
Aug. 13, 1945  Peacetime Conscription
Sep. 09, 1944  The Voting Age
Apr. 15, 1944  Universal Military Service
Feb. 17, 1942  Compulsory Labor Service
Jun. 11, 1941  Revision of the Draft System
Aug. 14, 1940  Conscription in the United States
Apr. 24, 1939  Conscription for Military Service
Military Draft
Women in the Military