What Happens During A Military Service Draft?

When and how the government can implement Selective Service

Draft Lottery
••• sss.gov

The last time the United States utilized the draft was on December 7, 1972, during the Vietnam War. The date of the last drawing for the lottery was on March 12, 1975. The drawing was similar to how the state lotteries are drawn, but with 366 balls representing 366 calendar birthdays of a year. The ages of the draftees fell between 18 and 26. The draft has only been used in times of war and not for mandatory military service during peace time. 

Here is a brief overview of how the draft system works and all the procedures that have to fall into place to open the draft for involuntary military service. 

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 the draft process. It should be noted that the president cannot initiate a draft on his or her own.

National Draft Lottery

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.

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.

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

Evaluating Recruits 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.

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. 

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