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Research Report

Automatic Registration in the United States: The Selective Service Example

  • Laura Seago
Published: July 15, 2009

For decades, federal law required men to register with the Selective Service when they turn 18 and to keep their registrations current through the age of 25. Enforceable law helped encourage registration; so did the agency’s efforts to make registration materials available in post offices, schools, and other public places.  

Recently, however, the Selective Service System has taken a more pro-active role in registration and has deployed a range of technological resources that make registration easier and more efficient. Automatic registration programs and data-sharing arrangements with other government agencies- including state departments of motor vehicles, Education, and the Department of Labor’s Job Corps Program- significantly help the Selective Service to register members of the target population and to keep registrations current.  

The Selective Service maintains records for about 16.5 million individuals in its target population—or about 95 percent of the approximately 17 million males between 18 and 25 living in the United States. It also reports that technological resources have significantly reduced the costs involved in building and maintaining registration lists.  

This report explains how technology helps the Selective Service and partner agencies register and maintain current records on the majority of the agency’s target population-with little or no effort on the part of registrants themselves.