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Millennium bug returns: US draft notices sent to men born in 1800s

by Mark Tyson on 11 July 2014, 14:09

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The Millennium bug, also known as the Y2K problem, which caused much trouble for software developers in the late 1990s has returned to the headlines. Reports are that due to such a double digit date calculation bug a U.S. government agency has sent over 14,000 draft notices to men born in the 1800s.

"The Selective Service System mistakenly sent notices to more than 14,000 Pennsylvania men born between 1893 and 1897, ordering them to register for the nation's military draft and warning that failure to do so is 'punishable by a fine and imprisonment'," said an Associated Press report.

The agency realised that there had been a mistake when it started receiving calls from confused relatives last week. The error occurred as the state uses a two-digit code to indicate year of birth (eg. "93-97" instead of "1993-1997"). This resulted in the computer mistakenly sending notices to all males in its database born between 1993 and 1997 AND those born between 1893 and 1897.

Some of Uncle Sam's younger soldiers

"This has never happened before, and I'd bet money that it will never happen again," Pat Schuback, a spokesperson for Selective Service said. He also confirmed that the agency sent out 57,787 registration notices in June and 14,200 of those were sent to Pennsylvania males born during the 1890s.

NetworkWorld has collected a few humorous Tweets regarding the error:

  • "Y2K: The gift that keeps on giving."
  • "Find great-great-great granpa's teeth and wake him up."
  • "U.S. government raising an army of zombies!"
  • "The few, the proud, the long-dead."
  • "I wonder if they got any response?"

The computer files of the men, who are almost certainly all dead and buried since the youngest surviving draftee would be turning 117 this year, have now been deactivated. Families have been told to simply ignore the draft notices and expect no further communications from the Selective Service.



HEXUS Forums :: 14 Comments

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Haha :) It's funny from here. But I guess it must've been a bit upsetting for those who got the letter :/
ZaO
Haha :) It's funny from here. But I guess it must've been a bit upsetting for those who got the letter :/
Not as upsetting as I suspect many both alive and young enough to qualify would find getting it.

It seems .... anachronistic .... that, in the 21st century, the "Land of the Free" still feels it necessary to run a system designed specifically for the purpose of compulsory and non-voluntary military service. Even more anachronistic when it seems, from discussions in recent years, that it's very likely to be politically suicidal for any politician or administration to actually try to activate the draft.

I wonder how any attempt to implement such a system would go down here in the UK?

Mind you, it's one way to reduce youth unemployment rates. ;)
Saracen
Not as upsetting as I suspect many both alive and young enough to qualify would find getting it.

It seems .... anachronistic .... that, in the 21st century, the "Land of the Free" still feels it necessary to run a system designed specifically for the purpose of compulsory and non-voluntary military service. Even more anachronistic when it seems, from discussions in recent years, that it's very likely to be politically suicidal for any politician or administration to actually try to activate the draft.

I wonder how any attempt to implement such a system would go down here in the UK?

Mind you, it's one way to reduce youth unemployment rates. ;)

Haha.. Er, but don't we already have that here? I don't like the idea that it can be forced on anyone! But I think it might be necessary if it was for the cause of defending your country from an overwhelming attack. But it's not cool if they used it to force people to invade other countries :(
ZaO
Haha.. Er, but don't we already have that here? I don't like the idea that it can be forced on anyone! But I think it might be necessary if it was for the cause of defending your country from an overwhelming attack. But it's not cool if they used it to force people to invade other countries :(
We, assuming you mean UK don't, no. Haven't had for 50 years or more, IIRC.

But I ought to clarify the difference.

What the US has is a registration requirement. Just about every male, between (IIRC) 18 and about 26 has to register, on pain of criminal penalties, and/or restriction to some welfare entitlements, student funding, etc.

Moreover, it doesn't only apply to US citizens, but many resident aliens (green card holders), immigrants, etc, and failing to do so can be used to reject subsequent citizenship applucations. Ironically, even illegal immigrants resident in the US are required to register.

Notice I said "males". Yup, only males.

But what hasn't been done (as far as I know) in the US for some decades, and would be politically VERY dangerous to try, is to activate the draft, and actually start calling people up, for active service. Mind you, the periods for which those already serving have been extended, sometimes considerably, from what was expected to what now is .... the so-called "stop-loss" provisions, to stem the flow of experienced combat soldiers leaving the forces.

The registration requirement, therefore, is rather like a contingency plan, to have the facility in place to call up a draft, should the political will, and balls, to do it actually be found.

The UK has had conscription in the past, but not for a long time. The last time was national service, and that ended in 1960, with the last national servicemen leaving in '63. These days, the UK has an entirely voluntary, and professional, forces. Well, quite how professional the TA is, some might question. Me? Dunno, not having done either TA or mainstream forces. I'm sure we've got quite a few members that have, that could answer that.

As for whether it'd be necessary in the event of the country being attacked, I think it'd depend on exactly what happened. Unless it was a very substantial, and very protracted engagement, I'm not sure how much use tens of thousands of barely trained neophytes would be, and by the time they were trained well enough to get their boots on the right feet and which end of a rifle was which, it'd probably be over, one way of the other, anyway.
June 1973 saw the end of the US draft although in 1980 it was effectively renamed as the selective service system