The Senate overwhelmingly passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Tuesday, including in the bill a provision that requires women to register with the Selective Service System — a federal agency charged with keeping records on Americans eligible for the military draft.
While the significant change in policy has the support of Democratic and Republican lawmakers, as well as military leaders, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) both vehemently oppose its institution and voted against the bill as a whole.
Overall, NDAA’s Senate version appropriates $602 billion in defense funds for fiscal year 2017, $58.6 billion of which would be allocated to the Overseas Contingency Operations fund, a special account used to finance war expenses.
In addition, the bill passed Tuesday calls for a reduction in the White House’s National Security Council Staff, prevents the president from ordering a complete shutdown of Guantanamo Bay’s detention camp and rejects the Pentagon’s suggestion to close military bases that are deemed unnecessary.
In regard to the draft reform provision, the new policy would make females turning 18 years-old in the year 2018 and beyond eligible for required military service in case of a national emergency.
“Every uniform leader of the United States military seemed to have a different opinion from (Cruz’s) whose military background is not extensive,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain said on the floor. “After months of rigorous oversight, a large bipartisan majority on the Armed Services Committee agreed that there is simply no further justification to limit Selective Service registration to men.”
In February, Marine Corps. commandant, Gen. Robert Neller and Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, expressed their support for draft eligibility reform after the Pentagon announced a change in policy that would allow women in combat.
“It is a radical change that is attempting to be foisted on the American people.” said Sen. Cruz. “The idea that we should forcibly conscript young girls into combat, to my mind, makes little or no sense.”
The respective House and Senate NDAA bills will now have to be reconciled in a joint committee session to hash out some stark differences that include both the amount of money appropriated and numerous provisions, including female draft eligibility.
President Obama has signaled that he will veto any NDAA bill that includes some of the policy changes written into the Senate version, although the upper-chamber will be able to override an executive rejection with even less than the 85 votes the legislation received on Tuesday.
[Politico] [NPR] [CNN] [Photo courtesy The Denver Post]