Is it time to require women to register for the draft now that they can serve in all military positions?

Thursday, December 31, 2015 by

( Some of President Barack Obama’s most controversial domestic policy initiatives have involved the U.S. military, which, to be fair to him, has long been a test bed of social engineering. The military was the first to integrate race and ethnic groups, the first to break the so-called “glass ceiling” in providing leadership positions for men and women of color, and pioneered the concept of men and women serving together.

Obama’s order to open all combat positions to women, however, was the boldest social change in decades, and it is a decision that continues to spark heated discussion inside and outside the military establishment, as well as across broad swaths of American society. And yet, the country, generally, understands why he made that decision: In order for their to be true equality within military ranks, all jobs have to be open to everyone, regardless of gender, especially, and regardless, apparently, of whether or not “everyone” can do the job required of them.

But that equality thing opened up another discussion that perhaps the president and his advisers hadn’t considered, and that this: Now that all jobs are available to all comers, should men continue to be the only gender required by law to register for a future military draft and, as it stands, the only gender subject to punitive measures by the government if they don’t register?

Increasingly, analysts and pundits are siding with full equality – that is, requiring both genders to register, something that is not likely to go over well with most women (which is probably why Obama did not seek that particular requirement).

Anna Granville, a naval officer using a pseudonym and writing at Task & Purpose, says that because of Obama’s action, “women’s legal exemption from the draft is now obsolete.”

“All U.S. citizens — men and women — should be required to register for Selective Service at age 18. Currently, women are not even permitted to voluntarily enroll,” she writes.

A change in law would require congressional action, but the issue has been addressed before, she notes – four times since 1981, in fact. But each time the issue made it to legal review it was dismissed for one reason: Women were not eligible for combat roles.

Now they are, and so that hurdle has been leapt.

“It’s only a matter of time before the law will change. And it’s unlikely to be as simple as adding ‘and women’ or changing language to ‘all citizens’ within the current law,” Granville writes. “Congress will have to address what will happen when married couples are drafted. Hardship deferments already exist for those who must care for dependents.”

In the end, Obama or his successor may have no choice but to require male/female draft registration. The military, in dutifully justifying Obama’s decision, has said the numbers of potential qualified male recruits is dangerously low; too many young men with criminal convictions, physical limitations, substandard education scores (if they’ve even finished high school at all) and an overall malaise towards military service. In fact, a 2013 Wall Street Journal report noted that fully two-thirds of American youth would not qualify for military service. That alone, some analysts have noted, is worth requiring women to register. It gets them in the mindset that they may someday be called upon to defend their country, and for another, it essentially doubles the available pool of qualified recruits.

For his part Army Secretary John McHugh has said that at some future point, the law is likely to change, requiring women to register.

“If your objective is true and pure equality then you have to look at all aspects” of the roles of women in the military, McHugh said, and registration for the draft “will be one of those things. That will have to be considered.”

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See also:

The Washington Post

The Wall Street Journal

Task & Purpose

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