How the U.S. Draft Works

Special Classifications

­While the U.S. government expects most able young men to serve in the military­ if asked, it does allow for a few exceptions. If the draft were to be reinstated, the government would activate a classification program to define all exceptions as well as the various forms of service.

A man who is sent an induction notice and is found fit for service would automatically be classified as 1-A. This means he is available for military service immediately. After receiving the induction notice, if he wanted to receive an exemption, deferment or postponement he would have 10 days to file a claim form for reclassification. The SSS would then send the man a documentation form, which he would use to support his claim for reclassification.

There are a fairly large number of classifications, all of which you can read about at this site. But generally speaking, there are only a few groups that are eligible for exemption, deferment or postponement. These include:

  • High school students - A high school student younger than age 20 may postpone his induction as long as he is a full-time student doing satisfactory work. High school students who turn 20 in their senior year may also postpone their induction.
  • College students - A college senior may postpone his induction for the remainder of the academic year. Freshmen, sophomores and juniors may postpone their induction until the end of the semester.
  • Religious ministers - Practicing religious ministers are exempt from military service.
  • Ministerial students - Full-time students working toward becoming ordained ministers in a recognized religion are deferred from service.
  • Armed forces on active duty - Military personnel, including active National Guardsmen, Reservists, and select personnel in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the Public Health Service, are deferred from induction as they are already serving the country.
  • Select men with dependents - If a man's induction would cause extreme hardships for his dependents, he may be eligible for a hardship deferment. (Check out this page for specific details.)
  • Select government officials - Judges and a range of elected officials, including governors, mayors and legislators (both state legislators and U.S. congressmen) are all deferred.
  • Select aliens and dual nationals - Certain groups of aliens, as well as U.S. citizens who also claim citizenship in select nations, may be eligible for deferment. (Check out this page for specific details.)
  • Conscientious objectors - Men who are opposed to engaging in combat or serving in the military at all due to deeply held religious or moral beliefs may be specially assigned.

Reclassification claims based on simple facts (high school postponements, for example) are handled by the area SSS office. Reclassification claims that require a subjective decision (conscientious objector or hardship deferment status, for example) are passed on to the local Selective Service board.

Local boards are comprised of five volunteer civilians appointed by the Director of Selective Service. Each board serves all the eligible men residing in a relatively small area. In a draft, a board's job is to review the evidence presented by men seeking reclassification and to decide whether or not those men should be reclassified. For certain reclassifications (conscientious objector status, for example) the man must appear before the board personally. Even when it is not required, a man still has the option to appear before the board.

A board's most difficult decisions are usually regarding conscientious objector status. In the next section, we'll look at this classification in greater detail.