By Noah Abrams

The idea of a military draft, where citizens are required to serve in the armed forces, has been an ongoing concern and debate in the United States. The last time a draft was implemented by the U.S. was during the Vietnam War, which ended in 1973. Since then, the nation has relied solely on citizens volunteering to join the armed forces. Though true, recent events have reignited conversations surrounding the potential of reinstating the draft. With these discussions, many are likely wondering, “Is the military draft coming back?” Let’s examine the military draft, its current status, and determine the possibility of it being a part of military procedures again.

A Brief Overview of the Military Draft and Its History

“How does the military draft work?” you might ask. The military draft, also known as conscription, was first formally introduced in the United States during the Civil War. It was later incorporated during both World Wars and the Korean War.

The most notorious use of the military draft occurred during the Vietnam War. Around 1.9 million people were drafted throughout the duration of the war. This led to widespread protests and demands for reform. It was evident that conscription was not popular amongst society.

The draft officially came to an end in 1973. The United States shifted from drafting Soldiers to becoming strictly an all-volunteer force. With that said, the Selective Service System remains active, which automatically registers young men if necessary.

The Current Status of the Selective Service System

Do you have to register for the military draft? Even though the draft has been inactive for more than four decades, the Selective Service System mandates all male U.S. citizens and male immigrant non-citizens to register within 30 days of their 18th birthday. The U.S. military draft age is between 18-25 years old.

Failing to register can lead to penalties such as fines, imprisonment, and losing eligibility for federal student financial aid. The United States would have many troops at their disposal to mobilize in the event of a national emergency.

Recent Discussions and Legislative Proposals

Recently, multiple conversations and legislative proposals have been about the military draft and the Selective Service System. A significant proponent of recent debates has centered around requiring women to register for the Selective Service.

In 2016, the Senate passed a version of the National Defense Authorization Act that incorporated a provision requiring women to register but wasn’t included in the final bill.

In 2020, the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service suggested that Congress amend the Military Service Act to include women. They contested that including women would promote equality and strengthen national security by expanding the talent pool of potential military draftees.

Is the Military Draft Coming Back?

So, the question on everyone's mind is, “Will there be a military draft?” Though the Selective Service System remains in place, and there are ongoing conversations regarding the expansion of registration to include women. However, it seems unlikely that the draft will return in the near future.

The United States military has enough recruits based on volunteer numbers, and the consensus is against the draft and prefers an all-volunteer force.

Furthermore, the political and social climate is different compared to previous generations. The Vietnam War created societal divisions and backlash. The lasting damage and backlash have made policymakers more cautious about reinstating the military draft unless necessary. From this, the answer to “Is the military draft coming back?” seems to be “no” for the foreseeable future.

The Future of the Military Draft Remains Uncertain

So, is the military draft coming back in 2024? As of the date of this writing, there are no current plans for the reinstatement of the military draft.

The military draft has played an important part in American history, but the future of it is up in the air. Though the framework for a draft has been consistently in place, and conversations about it continue to loom, there’s no indication of its return.

This could be due in part to the current military and political landscape. For now, the United States continues to depend on the commitment and service of volunteer military personnel. Currently, it seems like the draft will be used as a last resort, only making it necessary in the event of a national crisis.


  • National Commission Multi-Year Study Affirms the Nation Needs to Maintain the Selective Service, Accessed June 2024. https://www.sss.gov/news/national-commission-final-report/
  • Background: Women and the Draft, Accessed June 2024. https://www.sss.gov/register/women/background/
  • Annual number of United States military personnel conscripted via the draft from 1964 to 1973, Accessed June 2024. https://www.sss.gov/register/women/background/

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