Selective Service System

Fact Box

Selective Service System

Formed on May 18, 1917
Headquarters- Arlington County, Virginia
Director -- Lawrence G. Romo
Employees (2008) 136 full-time civilians, 57 part-time civilian directors, 200 part-time reserve force officers (in peacetime), up to 10,830 part-time volunteers
Annual budget (2014) $23 million

Operating with permanent authorization under the Military Selective Service Act, and run by a Director who reports to the President of the United States, Selective Service System (SSS) is an independent federal agency responsible for being prepared to provide trained and untrained personnel to the Department of Defense should a national emergency arise. The draft was actually terminated in 1973, but the Selective Service System has continued to operate for 41 years.

The Selective Service System was created in 1917, during World War I, when Congress passed the Selective Service Act, which required the registration for military service of all men from the ages of 21 through 30. The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, passed by Congress during the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, mandated the first compulsory enlistment into U.S. military service during a time that the country was at peace. It also formally established the Selective Service System as an independent federal agency. Between 1948 and 1973, during times of war and peace, men were drafted for vacancies in the service that were not filled by volunteers. In 1973, during President Richard Nixon’s administration, the draft was ended, and the United States utilized an all-volunteer military, with the requirement to register suspended in April 1975, when President Gerald Ford signed the Terminating Registration Procedures Under Military Selective Service Act. In 1980, in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter brought back the Selective Service registration requirement for male citizens, which currently remains in effect. As of 2010, 92% of men 18 to 25 have registered, and there are more than 14 million names and addresses on file for U.S. male citizens between the ages of 18 and 25.

What it Does

Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, Selective Service System operates a Data Management Center in Palatine, Illinois, and three regional offices, in North Chicago, Illinois; Smyrna, Georgia; and Denver, Colorado. It is responsible for:

  • communicating selective service requirements to the American public;
  • registering 18 to 25-year-old U.S. male citizens;
  • managing the outgoing and incoming information on the men, so, in case of an emergency, a draft can be immediately resumed;
  • being prepared to implement, if there is another draft, an Alternative Service Program for men classified as conscientious objectors, which would provide those individuals public service work assignments in the country, in lieu of military service.

Registration for the draft for 18- to 25-year-old men is currently mandatory, and refusing to register is against the law, except for a few exceptions, which include non-immigrant aliens on student, visitor, tourist, or diplomatic visas; men already on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces; and cadets and midshipmen in the Service Academies, and certain other U.S. military colleges. For all other men 18-25, if Congress and the President decide to reinstate a draft, a lottery drawing would be conducted to determine the order in which they would be called, with the first priority group consisting of those in the calendar year of their 20th birthday. A classification program would also go into effect, whereby registrants would be examined to determine suitability for military service, and would have ample time if they wanted to claim exemptions, deferments, or postponements. To be inducted, men would need to meet the physical, mental, and administrative standards established by the military services. Selective Service Reserve Forces Officers would also then be called to active duty, to establish State Headquarters and Area Offices at predetermined locations, and at the same time the civilian volunteer board members would be activated. Currently, when there is no draft, due to past difficulties with enforcing the registration requirement, the Selective Service System works in tandem with other government agencies in the implementation of varying methods of encouraging registration, which include requiring registration if a man between 18 and 25 wants to receive student financial aid or federal grants and loans.

Where Does the Money Go?

According to, the Selective Service System has spent more than $18.9 million on more than 1,000 contractor transactions during the past decade. Services have ranged from ADPE system configuration ($2,775,944) and data collection ($2,098,317) to miscellaneous professional services ($1,614,804), training/curriculum development ($1,147,210) and food cooking/serving equipment ($782,221).

The top five recipients of SSS contractor spending are:

1. Advanced Information Services Inc.                                               $3,584,519

2. Government of the United States                                                   $3,084,304

3. United States Postal Service                                                           $1,786,359

4. Integrated Systems                                                                         $1,228,323 

5. Widmeyer Communications Inc.                                                       $706,850 

The Selective Service System FY 2012 Performance Budget Justification provides the following outline of expected agency expenses for this year:

Personnel compensation                                                                        $15,626,000

Other services                                                                                        $2,972,000

Equipment                                                                                            $2,449,000

Communication, utilities, and miscellaneous charges                             $1,781,000

Rental payments to GSA                                                                           $599,000

Printing and reproduction                                                                        $472,000

Travel and transportation of persons                                                           $240,000

Rent, non-federal                                                                                     $214,000

Supplies and materials                                                                             $144,000

Transportation of things                                                                              $3,000

Total                                                                                                    $24,500,000