White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price announced Thursday that the Obama administration now supports policy reform requiring American women to register for the military draft, known as the Selective Service.
Price went on to say the president sees female combat soldiers as having “proven their mettle” in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade and a half, and particularly since military positions once exclusive to men began to integrate women earlier in the year.
“As old barriers for military service are being removed, the administration supports — as a logical next step — women registering for the Selective Service,” Price said.
The White House’s proclamation was endorsed by the Defense Department, with Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook commenting that “it makes sense” to require females registration now that they are allowed in virtually all areas of the armed services.
In December 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter decreed that the U.S. Armed Forces would open all combat roles for women “as long as they qualify and meet the standards”, totaling approximately 220,000 positions.
Thursday’s announcement includes no legal recourse as such a policy change requires an act of Congress. In July, the House struck a relevant provision out of a $611 million 2017 defense spending bill after parallel legislation with similar language passed the Senate the previous month by an overwhelming vote of 83–15.
America has now gone more than four decades without a draft, the last occurring in 1973 at the end of the Vietnam War. Despite the remote possibility of its reinstitution in the foreseeable future, about 75 percent of states require all 18 year-old males to register with the Selective Service in order to obtain a driver’s license and receive some government benefits.
Many Democrats and anti-war conservatives argue that the current all-volunteer service makes it more likely the U.S. will commit combat troops overseas, as most of those who sign up for duty are less well-off economically and not politically connected.
House Armed Services Committee member, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), has been an outspoken critic of allowing women in combat generally and blasted the NSC’s announcement Thursday, calling the proposal “purely politics”.
“The military doesn’t support this,” he said.
Since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and then Iraq less than two years later, approximately 280,000 women have served in military roles there out of a total of 2.5 million troops.
[AP] [USA Today]