The next time Uncle Sam comes calling, he's probably going to want you, too.
The Obama administration recently decided to lift the ban on women in combat. Legal experts and military historians say that decision has opened the door for a change in the law that currently compels only men between age 18 and 25 to register for a military draft.
Never before have women been drafted into military service. Neither the White House nor Congress are in a hurry to make them register for a future call-up.
A draft would be enormously unpopular and adding women to the mix just isn't a priority for a battle-weary country nearing the end of more than a decade of war. Yet, legally, there may be no other choice, the experts say.
Separately, two lawmakers are waging a little-noticed campaign to abolish the Selective Service System altogether. That's the independent federal agency that manages draft registration.
They say the millions of dollars the agency spends each year preparing for the possibility of a military draft is a waste of money.
Reps. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., say the Pentagon has no interest in returning to conscription due to the success of the all-volunteer force.
The Selective Service has a budget of $24 million and a full-time staff of 130. It maintains a database of about 17 million potential male draftees. In the event of a draft, the agency would mobilize as many as 11,000 volunteers to serve on local draft boards that would decide if exemptions or deferments to military service were warranted.
The Selective Service is an "inexpensive insurance policy," said Lawrence Romo, the agency's director. "We are the true backup for the true emergency."
Men between the ages of 18 and 25 often register online or by mail. But those who don't register with the Selective Service can be charged with a felony. 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.
DeFazio says it makes no sense to threaten to penalize men who don't register when the odds of a draft are so remote.
Attempts to get rid of the agency have failed, DeFazio says, because too many of his colleagues on Capitol Hill worry that closing Selective Service down will make them look weak on national security.
"There is no one who wants this except 'chicken hawk' members of Congress," DeFazio says, using a term to describe a person who pushes for the use of military power but never served in the armed forces.
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