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Fifty five years ago today, Elvis Presley became Private Presley, joining the millions of American men conscripted into military service since colonial times.

Beginning with the Revolutionary War, when conscription drafts were utilized by several state militias to maintain a strong force, the draft has been relied upon to fill vacancies in the military that could not be filled with voluntary enlistments during times of war.  During the Civil War, legislation was passed giving the Federal government the ability to use a military draft.  Under The Enrollment Act of 1863, all males between the ages of 20 and 45 were entered into a draft lottery.  Men who were drafted had three choices:  serve; produce a substitute; or pay a $300 commutation fee to avoid service. 

The Selective Service Act of 1917, was enacted to insure adequate military personnel to fight in World War I.  Draftees were no longer allowed to pay a fee to avoid service or send a substitute in their place, making the draft less discriminatory that during the Civil War.  Conscientious objector exemptions were allowed for the Amish, Quakers and Church of the Brethren only. All other religious and political objectors were forced to participate and serve if selected.

The  draft as we know it was enacted in 1940 by President Roosevelt.  The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 created the country’s first peacetime draft and formally established the Selective Service System as an independent Federal agencyFrom 1948 until 1973, during both peacetime and periods of conflict, men were drafted to fill vacancies in the armed forces which could not be filled through voluntary means. In 1973, the peacetime draft ended and the U.S. converted to an All-Volunteer military.

For a short time between 1975 and 1980, young men were not required to register.  Registration was resumed in 1980 by President Carter in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  The registration requirement today mandates that all men, aged 18 through 25 register with the Selective Service System.  Young men are also required to notify Selective Service within 10 days of any change of address.

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