Claim: The U.S. military is planning to reinstitute the draft.
AP’s Assessment: False. Defense officials confirm the armed forces have made no such recommendation to Congress or the president, which are the entities empowered to authorize a draft.
The Facts: With America’s allies in Europe and the Middle East embroiled in conflicts with no end in sight, social media posts are claiming the U.S. military is considering mandating regular citizens to enlist in the armed forces.
A number of those are sharing a headline from a Sept. 25 article from the Mises Institute, a libertarian group in Alabama that reads: “The US Military Is Laying the Groundwork to Reinstitute the Draft.”
The essay, entitled “A Call to Action: Lessons from Ukraine for the Future Force,” highlights military lessons from the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. It’s also cited in the Mises Institute article.
“Biden Set To Bring Back The DRAFT.. For War With Russia Or China,” wrote one Facebook user who shared a video that included screenshots of the Parameters essay.
But there’s no plans to bring back mandatory conscription in the U.S., military officials confirmed this week.
Nicole Schwegman, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Defense, dismissed the claims as false, noting in a phone interview that only Congress and the president have the ability to call for a draft and the military has not recommended elected officials even consider it.
She also pointed to the disclaimer at the bottom of the Parameters essay that makes it clear the defense department doesn’t exercise any editorial control over the publication.
The disclaimer also states that articles represent the opinions of their authors and “not necessarily those of the Department of Defense, the Department of the Army, the US Army War College, or any other agency of the US government.”
Robert Kenny, a deputy associate director at the Selective Service System, which maintains information about U.S. residents who potentially qualify for the draft, confirmed the Virginia-based agency hasn’t had any discussions regarding reinstituting conscription and isn’t aware of any legislative proposals in Congress to reinstate the draft.
He said one of the agency’s top priorities remains ensuring all men ages 18-25 years-old are aware of the federal requirement to register for the Selective Service in the event the president and Congress enact a draft.
“We are a readiness organization and continually work with federal and state partners in ‘active stand-by’ status to ensure that the Selective Service System is prepared to mobilize during a national emergency if called on by the President and Congress to do so,” Kenny wrote in an email Monday.
John Nagl, a professor at the U.S. Army War College who co-authored the Parameters essay, said the piece doesn’t even recommend the resumption of the draft.
It states the U.S. Army faces recruiting shortfalls and a shrinking reserve corps, meaning it likely could not sustain the rate of casualties seen in the conflict in Ukraine at its current troop levels.
“The implication is that the 1970s concept of an all-volunteer force has outlived its shelf life and does not align with the current operating environment,” Nagl and the other authors write in the essay. “Large-scale combat operations troop requirements may well require a reconceptualization of the 1970s and 1980s volunteer force and a move toward partial conscription.”
Zack Yost, who authored the Mises Institute piece, stressed his item does not say that the military is reinstituting the draft, rather that the U.S. military in the “context of this piece in the War College journal is laying the groundwork to do so.”
“There is obviously a difference between these two claims,” he wrote in an email.
The U.S. drafted soldiers to fight in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
Active conscription ended in 1973, during the waning days of the Vietnam War, after which the country moved to an all-volunteer military.
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.