The Obama administration has declared its support for requiring women to register for the military draft, a symbolic but significant shift that reflects the U.S. military’s evolution from a male-dominated force to one seeking to incorporate women at all levels.
President Barack Obama has been considering whether to adopt the position since last December, when Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered the military to open all jobs to women, including the most arduous combat posts. Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council, said Thursday that Obama believes women have “proven their mettle,” including in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“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, using the formal name for the military draft.
Women prove mettle
The Defense Department echoed Obama’s position, first reported by USA Today. Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said that Carter believes the inclusion of women throughout the military’s echelons has strengthened the military’s might.
Under current law, women can volunteer to serve in the military, but aren’t required to register for the draft. All adult men must register within 30 days of their 18th birthday, and risk losing eligibility for student aid, job training and government jobs if they fail to comply.
The White House emphasized that the administration remains committed to an all-volunteer military, meaning women, like men, wouldn’t be forced to serve unless there were a national emergency like a major world war. Changing the policy would require an act of Congress, and there are no signs that lawmakers plan to move swiftly to alter the law.
Congress remove requirement
The $611 defense policy bill now up for a vote in the House stripped out language that would have required women to register for the draft.
Late last year, the Pentagon ordered all military jobs opened to women, including about 220,000 jobs previously restricted to men, including in special operations forces. Carter and other military leaders insisted that the military wouldn’t lower the physical standards for those jobs to enable more women to qualify.