Selective Service Lottery

Photo of the lottery capsulesIf and when the Congress and the President reinstate a military draft, the Selective Service System would conduct a National Draft Lottery to determine the order in which young men would be drafted.

The lottery would establish the priority of call based on the birth dates of registrants. The first men drafted would be those turning age 20 during the calendar year of the lottery. For example, if a draft were held in 2012, those men born in 1992 would be considered first. If a young man turns 21 in the year of the draft, he would be in the second priority, in turning 22 he would be in the third priority, and so forth until the year in which he turns 26 at which time he is over the age of liability. Younger men would not be called in that year until men in the 20-25 age group are called.

Because of the enormous impact of this lottery, it would be conducted publicly, with full coverage by the media. Accredited observers from public interest groups will have full access to observe the proceedings.


Here is how the lottery would work: 

The lottery process begins with two large air mix drums.  First, the air mix balls having date and month on them are loaded in one of the large drums.  Using this same method, number from 1 to 365 (366 for men born in a leap year) on the air mix balls are loaded in the second drum.  Official observers certify that all air mix balls were loaded in the Titan drawing machines.

One air mix ball is drawn from the drum containing birth dates January 1 through December 31. One air mix ball is then drawn from the drum containing the sequence numbers from 1 through 365 (366 if the draft will call men born during a leap year) and the date and number are paired to establish the sequence number for each birth date. This is done in full view of all observers, officials, and the media.

For example, if the date of August 4 is drawn first from the “date” drum, and the sequence number of 32 is drawn from the “number’s” drum at the same time, then those men turning 20 on August 4 would be ordered for induction processing only after men whose birthdays drew sequence numbers 1 through 31. The drawings continue until all 365 (or 366) birthdays of the year are paired with a sequence number.

After the lottery is completed and results certified, the sequence of call is transmitted to the Selective Service System’s Data Management Center. Almost immediately the first induction notices are prepared and sent via the U.S. Postal Service to men whose birth dates drew the lowest lottery numbers.

This system, based on random selection of birth dates, with the order of priority for reporting assigned in a random manner, is a fair and equitable method of calling men to serve.