MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In the days after the U.S. strike on an Iranian general last week, #WorldWarIII began trending on Twitter. Most of the tweets were political statements, personal reactions or memes, but some of them insinuated applying for federal financial aid would prioritize a young man for the draft.

Within hours, the website for the Selective Service System, the federal agency that’s in charge of keeping database of registered men between 18 and 25, saw a big surge. On Friday, the agency wrote on Twitter, “Due to the spread of misinformation, our website is experiencing high traffic volumes at this time.”

So, how does the draft work? Good question.

According to the Selective Service System, Congress would need to pass legislation and the President would need to sign it to authorize a draft.

The draft was first used by the U.S. during the Civil War and then through almost every other major war until Vietnam, according to Amy Rutenberg, author of Rough Draft: Cold War Military Manpower Policy and the Origins of Vietnam-Era Draft Resistance.

“It ended in 1973 at the end of the Vietnam War,” she said, citing the intense political resistance to it.

Today, the 1.2 million active-duty military members in the U.S. are volunteers. That’s about one-half of 1% of the U.S. adult population under 65.

During the Carter administration, registering for the Selective Service System was brought back. Men, U.S. citizens and non-temporary residents, between the ages of 18 to 25 born in the U.S. are required to register, which can be done online.

It’s supposed to be done within 30 days of their 18th birthday. Most men register when they apply for a driver’s license or federal financial aid. According to the Selective Service System, 92% of eligible young men are registered.

It is against the law not to register, but it’s not commonly prosecuted. If a man doesn’t register before his 26th birthday, he faces a lifetime of denied benefits, like federal students loans or federal government jobs.

If legislation reinstating the draft were to pass, the men would be chosen by random lottery and the year they were born.

On Friday, the twitter account for FAFSA reiterated that writing, “There is no priority order for Selective Service based on the FAFSA form.”

In 2015, a National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service was tasked with evaluating the Selective Service System in the United States. They are looking at issues of including women in the draft or changing it only to include people with special skills. Their report will be available in March.

Again, Congress would have to pass legislation and the President would have to sign it. And, if that happened, the men would be chosen by random lottery and the year they were born.

Heather Brown

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