Selective Service not equipped to handle a draft, watchdog finds

Elaine Thompson/AP
After years of Defense Department neglect, the Selective Service System doesn't have enough personnel or resources to induct service members in the event the military draft is reinstated, according to a Government Accountability Office investigation.  

The report, sent Thursday to the heads of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, faults Defense for not re-examining its draft policies or taking a closer look at the Selective Service System since 1994. This is despite the fact the agency is charged with keeping an active record of all American males eligible for service. Selective Service’s role has been significantly diminished since Defense established all-volunteer armed forces in 1973.

In the event of a draft, which would require Congress and the president to enact a law reinstating the practice, the agency would be required to hold a lottery to determine inductees according to age and birth date. All men between the ages of 18 and 25 are eligible for the draft.

The Selective Service System has cut personnel steadily since 1997. With a current staff budget for 130 full-time civilian employees and 175 part-time reserve forces officers, the agency would not be able to deliver the first draft inductees to Defense until 285 days after mobilization, according to GAO.

Selective Service’s requested budget for fiscal 2013 was $24.4 million. This is down significantly in adjusted dollars from $22.9 million in fiscal 1997, which would equate to $31.5 million today, according to GAO. While the Selective Service System database contained 16.4 million names in 2010 and added 2.2 million in 2011, officials told GAO that a lack of personnel to set up area offices nationwide would make the actual induction process an arduous one.

In interviewing Selective Service System officials about potential alternatives to their agency, GAO found difficulties in replicating a database of eligible service members. Though other government agencies -- including the Social Security Administration, Department of Motor Vehicles and Census Bureau -- maintain similar databases of U.S. citizens, each has inherent flaws. A database of all Social Security participants, for example, would neglect immigrants with no Social Security number.

GAO recommended Defense once more evaluate its Selective Service requirements to account for the current state of national security and to “establish a process of periodically reevaluating these requirements.” Though a Quadrennial Defense Review is issued every four years, the review does not include an analysis of the draft database.

Defense concurred with GAO’s recommendations.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.