Could the Military Start Drafting Hackers in Their 40s?


A commission on the draft is studying cutting age and gender exclusions for people with cyber skills.

Got hacking skills? Uncle Sam may want you for the U.S. Army—even if you’re far past traditional draft age.

The National Commission on Military, National and Public Service is seeking public feedback on a slew of possible changes to the way the government handles its selective service requirements, including drafting people with cyber skills regardless of their age or gender.

The commission study was directed by Congress in the 2017 version of the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual defense policy bill, and is due to Congress in 2020.

The commission’s also exploring dropping age and gender restrictions on drafting people with science, math and engineering skills as well as doctors, nurses and dentists, according to the request, which is scheduled to be published in Friday’s Federal Register.  

Expanding the draft to older hackers, coders and digital gurus could face some roadblocks.

“I am building a company and being drafted would be an enormous hindrance,” said Roberto Pena, a 32-year-old independent app designer in Houston who works on educational apps.

That’s a complaint someone younger or earlier in his career might not have.

“It's very important that the military offer pathways to people who want to volunteer their technical knowledge in the service of their country,” Pena said, “but being drafted would hinder my ability to contribute to society in the best way I know how.”

Older, tech-proficient draftees might also not thrive under traditional military discipline, said Joe Hall, a 40-year-old tech policy adviser at the Center for Democracy and Technology.

While Hall’s “not totally against the idea,” he said, “I do think you'd need different structures to make the best use of these folks.”

The U.S. military has been an all-volunteer force since 1973, but the government requires male U.S. citizens between the ages of 18 and 25 to register for selective service. That’s essentially the pool of possible draftees if the government institutes a military draft.

The commission is also exploring ways to “foster a greater attitude and ethos of service among United States youth, including an increased propensity for military service” and the feasibility of giving draftees some federal benefit such as subsidized student loans or federal hiring preferences.