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Don’t draft women (or men)


Update on NDAA and the proposal to register women with the Selective Service System, December 8, 2016


CCW has been monitoring the discussion about extending the draft and draft registration to women ever since the military opened up all combat positions to women. The most significant movement has been in Congress, where bills were proposed to include women in the registration for Selective Service. (CCW opposes registration and conscription for all. A detailed analysis can be found here, or call us at 202-483-2220.)

In Spring 2016, the Senate approved an amendment to the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act, which is considered to be a bill that must pass) that would require women to register with Selective Service. The House of Representatives rejected a proposal to extend the registration requirement to women. Instead, the House version of the NDAA called for a Pentagon study of what effect registering women would have on military preparedness. It also called for a study of what effect eliminating Selective Service registration for men would have on defense readiness. Because the House and Senate versions of the bill differed, the NDAA went into Conference Committee to work out the differences. The Committee and its staff have been secretive about their negotiations throughout the summer and most of fall.

On November 30, 2016, the Conference Committee released its report, and on December 2, the full House of Representatives passed it. On December 8, 2016, the full Senate took the bill up for consideration and passed it as well.

The NDAA as passed does not authorize the registration of women. Instead, it establishes a National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service with a mandate to study whether “there continues to be a continuous or potential need for a military selective service process . . . and if so, whether such a system should include mandatory registration by all citizens and residents, regardless of sex."[1]

The Center on Conscience & War applauds the decision not to require women to register for the draft, but our work is not done!

Over the next couple years, the Commission will be studying the future of the Selective Service System. It is possible that the registration of women will be back on the table in the next Congress. It has been almost 20 years since Congress has seriously considered whether to end the registration and shut down Selective Service. This is a unique opportunity to make our voices heard. We can all be working now to urge congress to stop the registration and shut down selective service!

In the current Congress, H.R. 4523 and S. 3041 would accomplish that goal. When the new Congress convenes in January it is likely that identical bills will be introduced into the new Congress (although they will have different numbers). So when you contact your congressional representatives and senators, it is important that you talk about the issue rather than the bill number. And obviously, we would oppose any proposal to extend the burden of selective service registration to women.

Some talking points you can use for your Congressional calls and letters are below. If you need more information about why CCW opposes registration for men and women, click here or call us.

Thank you for your work and your witness for rights of conscience and for peace!

[1]2017 NDAA Conference Report, sec. 555(c)(2)(A)


Talking Points on SSS registration


1) Draft registration for men has been a failure and a burden on millions of men. Rather than extend the burden to women, it’s time to end it now.                                                                       

Gil Coronado, the former director of Selective Service said in the 1999 annual report,                

"If we are not successful in reminding men in the inner cities about their registration obligation, especially minority and immigrant men, they will miss out on opportunities to achieve the American dream. They will lose eligibility for college loans and grants, government jobs, job training and for registration-age immigrants, citizenship. Unless we are successful in achieving high registration compliance, America may be on the verge of creating a permanent underclass."[i]                                                                                                  

That was 17 years ago, and today there are even more restrictions and penalties for men who haven’t registered. If a man fails to register, for whatever reason, these penalties stay with him for the rest of his life, even though he will never have been charged, tried or convicted of any crime! This is not only blatantly unconstitutional, it's absolutely un-American!                                                                                                                                                        

Rather than extend this extra-judicial punishment to women, it’s time to end it for men.                                                                                                                                                             

2) Selective Service registration is a failure. When given a choice, most men don’t register.

·       SSS reports only 88% compliance with registration.[ii] That means millions of men are permanently burdened and punished by failing to register.

·       That 88% refers to all those who are required to be registered. Only 73% of 18 year old men have registered[iii], far fewer registered by the 29th day after turning 18 as required by law.

·       66% of those who registered did so by coercion, not will, as the law instructs, either to get financial aid for college or to get a driver’s license .[iv]


3) The cost of Selective Service registration exceeds the $25 million Selective Service budget: for example schools have the burden of verifying registration compliance[v] for students, increasing their administrative costs, which get passed on to students at the college. Various state laws requiring registration compliance for state benefits (such as employment) add costs to a state’s budget, yet offer no return on the investment. Extending the registration to women would increase those costs.                                                                                                  


4) Draft registration is unnecessary. After 9-11, the military had more than enough volunteers.[vi] Activating the draft was never seriously considered.

Alternatives to this burdensome system currently exist. In the unlikely event of a “sudden need” for more military personnel, it is reasonable to assume that, with today's technology, a pool of names could be generated quickly and easily for a potential draft (and more cheaply than the current ongoing registration).                                                                                         

Rather than increase the numerous problems that exist with our current Selective Service System by extending the registration to women, the wise choice is to end the registration of men.


[i] FY 1999 Annual Report to the Congress of the United States, from the Director of Selective Service, p.8.

[iii]  Ibid, p.5

[iv]  Ibid, p.9








Military Conscientious Objector Act (MCOA)


This Congress may well be the best chance we have to bring the MCOA to the fore. The MCOA provides several fundamental changes in the law concerning conscientious  objector discharge from the military.  Three principle ones are:

  • The Act will make CO recognition law, rather than regulation that the military can suspend at will as they did during the Gulf War.
  • The Act will make CO discharge more consistent with all early military discharges--the commanding officer will make the decision without having to be second guessed by the chain of command except in an appeal of a denial.  This is the case for all discharges other than medical now.
  • The Act will provide recognition not only for those completely opposed to warfare in all forms, but also for selective COs who follow the principles of the Just War theory.  This allows recognition of the beliefs of all faith, moral, and ethical traditions rather than accomodate only the beliefs of minority sects which hold that all wars are immoral.

The success of this measure depends on a focused and sustained effort by not only the Center on Conscience & War, but also by our supporters.  The Truth Commission on Conscience in War, in conjunction with Christian Peace Witness and CCW, has and will be engaged in bringing the issue of moral injury and MCOA to regional meetings.  We have developed this webpage to provide you with all the necessary information and knowledge to ensure a successful lobbying visit with your Representative.  Please do not hesitate to contact CCW with any questions you may have in regards to our lobbying efforts and thank you for supporting the Military Conscientious Objector Act.

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