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Draft Women? Two Top US Generals Say ‘Yes’


Army Undersecretary Patrick Murphy listens at left as Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington at a Senate hearing to examine the implementation of the decision to open all ground combat units to women, Feb. 2, 2016.

Army Undersecretary Patrick Murphy listens at left as Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington at a Senate hearing to examine the implementation of the decision to open all ground combat units to women, Feb. 2, 2016.

Two top generals say women should be required to register for the military draft as the armed forces work to fully integrate women into combat roles. Current U.S. laws require only men to sign up for the Selective Service conscription.

“All eligible and qualified men and women should register for the draft,” Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on women in combat Tuesday.

The commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, General Robert Nellar, agreed, saying, “Every American who is physically qualified should register for the draft.”

The U.S. military is currently an all-volunteer force. Only men aged 18-25 are required to be registered in case the draft is reactivated. The last U.S. draft ended more than 40 years ago.

Committee member Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, said asking women to register could potentially open up the military to more recruits. She said the move could encourage young women to think, “Well, the military is an option for me.”

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Acting Army Secretary Patrick Murphy, the hearing’s two other witnesses, would say only that there should be a discussion on requiring women to register for the military’s Selective Service.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced in December that women could serve in all military combat roles. The announcement was met with fears of lower military standards and expectations that women would soon be required register for the draft.

WATCH: Top US Generals Say ‘Yes’ to Women in the Draft

Despite strong support for integration, the military leaders cautioned that it would take years for women to be fully integrated into combat units.

Milley said the process would take "no less than one to three years” to complete. “Make no mistake about it, this process is going to have challenges.”

Speaking in Washington, Carter stressed that “simply declaring things open is not implementation” of the integration process. He also stressed that there would not be quotas or relaxed standards to accommodate women in these combat roles.

Supporters of the move say that eligibility should be based on ability, not gender.

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.

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