Just one month since all military jobs, including combat roles, were opened to women, top U.S. military officials are pushing for women’s inclusion in the draft. Two Republican lawmakers, Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), have also introduced a bill to this effect, though they say it’s intended to provoke consideration in Congress of the military’s recent changes.
At a Senate Armed Services hearing on Tuesday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller advocated for women’s incorporation into the Select Service System, an enlistment mechanism that requires virtually all men and male immigrants living in the United States to register to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces in the event of a national emergency.
“Every American who’s physically qualified should register for the draft,” said Neller in response to a question from Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who agrees with the proposed change. Added Milley, “I think that all eligible and qualified men and women should register for the draft.”
Hunter, who opposes the inclusion of women in combat roles, said, “If this administration wants to send 18-20 year old women into combat, to serve and fight on the front lines, then the American people deserve to have this discussion through their elected representatives.”
An independent federal agency created to stockpile manpower in times of war, the Selective Service System (SSS) has operated in one form or another since 1917. By law, it requires almost all men age 18 to 25 to enroll in the SSS within 30 days of eligibility so that, should a crisis arise, the Department of Defense can resume a national draft immediately. Because women have historically been shut out of combat roles, the Supreme Court decided in 1981 that an SSS registration provision for women was unnecessary, and women been exempted from the requirement ever since.
But in light of recent structural overhauls within the ranks, women’s required participation in all areas of military life, including the draft, will undoubtably increase, a reality top military brass like Neller hopes Congress will acknowledge.
“Now that the restrictions that exempted women from [combat jobs] don’t exist, then you’re a citizen of the United States,” said Neller shortly after Tuesday’s hearing. “It’s doesn’t mean you’re going to serve, but you go register.”
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