Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., has made several attempts over the past decade to reinstitute the draft on the grounds that a small fraction of U.S. citizens are bearing a disproportionate burden in fighting the nation's wars. But his bills have gone nowhere.
That hasn't stopped him from trying. Just this month, Rangel introduced another bring-back-the-draft bill that also would require women to register.
"Women have proven that they can do the very same tasks, military and non-military, that men can," Rangel said.
No one has been conscripted into the U.S. military since 1973 when an apprentice plumber from California named Dwight Elliott Stone became the last draftee to be inducted. Stone, now 63 and living in San Francisco, didn't go happily. "I just wanted to do my two years and get the hell out," Stone said. He ended up serving about 17 months, and never had to go overseas.
The rules have been changed to make a future draft more equitable than it was during the Vietnam era. Being a college student is no longer an out; induction can only be postponed until the end of a semester.
Men who don't register with the Selective Service System, an independent federal agency that prepares for a draft, can be charged with a felony and fined up to $250,000. But the Justice Department hasn't prosecuted anyone for that offense since 1986.
There can be other consequences, though. Failing to register can mean the loss of financial aid for college, being refused employment with the federal government, and denied U.S. citizenship.
The Selective Service System maintains a database of nearly 17 million names of potential male draftees, yet the odds of a draft being called are remote, according to national security experts. Volunteers typically are more motivated, more disciplined and more physically fit than draftees. They're also more willing to re-enlist, which creates a more experienced force.