The U.S. launched a drone strike in Iraq Thursday night, killing Iranian major general Qassem Soleimani, a top commander in the Iranian military. Though U.S. Defense Secretary Mike Pompeo said America did not seek war with Iran, some experts on Iranian foreign policy have called the move precisely an act of war, and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has already threatened revenge. If there is war ahead, it could once again lead to civilian casualties across Iraq and Iran, and another generation facing the front lines.
By Friday afternoon, with the mere hint of military conflict on the horizon under President Trump, online searches in the U.S. for “draft” related to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, had soared 2,500 percent, and the Selective Service System website was showing signs of being overloaded.
People appear to be worried because if you were assigned male at birth and you’ve ever filled out the FAFSA to receive financial aid for college, you are also required to sign up for something called the Selective Service System. (Incidentally, this means that trans women are also required to sign up, meaning they can be denied student aid if they refuse, according to the Selective Service.) The Selective Service System creates the pool from which the government pulls potential soldiers if Congress and the president authorize a draft. In that case, people are chosen at random and by date of birth, tested for mental and physical fitness, then either inducted into the armed forces, deferred, or denied. Around 83 percent of American college students attending public universities receive federal student aid via FAFSA, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
While agreeing to potentially put your life on the line in order to receive student aid sounds extreme—and it is—all U.S. citizens and permanent residents assigned male at birth between the ages of 18 and 25 are required to sign up for selective service within 30 days of their 18th birthday, regardless of whether or not they fill out the FAFSA. In addition to the FAFSA, people can sign up via the Selective Service System’s website, printing and mailing the registration form, via registrars within schools and universities, and when receiving official documents like a driver’s license in certain states.
Further, there’s little reason to believe a draft is coming. The most recent draft ended in 1973 during the Vietnam War. The U.S. military has been an all-volunteer force since then.
Still, consequences for not signing up for Selective Service via FAFSA or other methods go beyond the government withholding student aid. Those assigned male at birth who do not sign up for Selective Service are also ineligible for federal jobs, and could be prosecuted, facing a fine of up to $250,000 and/or five years in jail. Permanent residents risk becoming ineligible for citizenship.
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