Senators Mull Proposal to Require Women to Register for Military Draft

The Senate is again considering a proposal to require women to register with the U.S. military’s selective service draft system.
Senators Mull Proposal to Require Women to Register for Military Draft
Female soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division train on a firing range while testing new body armor in Fort Campbell, Ky., in preparation for their deployment to Afghanistan, on Sept. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)
Ryan Morgan

Lawmakers are again considering changes to the U.S. military draft, including a provision to begin requiring women to register with the Selective Service System.

The proposed changes to the draft come about as the Democrat-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives are each advancing their proposals for the fiscal year 2025 version of an annual defense budget bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s proposal for the NDAA includes a provision to amend the Military Selective Service Act—the 1948 law overseeing the modern U.S. military draft system—to require women to register their names for potential use in the draft should the conscription practice resume.

The military draft system fell out of use in 1973 as the military transitioned to an all-volunteer force. Male U.S. residents have still had to register their names in the draft system after they turned 18 in the decades since the military transitioned to a volunteer force.  The age requirement would be the same for women.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said that support for including women in the draft shouldn’t be stirring such a partisan response. In an emailed statement, Mr. Reed noted the 2015 National Commission on Military, National and Public Service—which he described as a nonpartisan panel led by then-Republican congressman Joe Heck—had also recommended including women in the selective service registration requirement.

“There is no draft. But there should be an end to the notion that women are less critical to our national defense than men,” Mr. Reed said. “And if the day ever comes where we need a draft, it will certainly require the skill, courage, and talent of men and women alike.”

The proposal to include women in the draft has met with criticism from several Senate Republicans.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said proponents of including women in the draft system can make their case, but he believes those arguments “don’t carry the day.”

The prospect of putting women in combat positions isn’t altogether unheard of, though it is a relatively new position for the U.S. military. Many combat roles had been closed to women for years until then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ordered that they be opened to women starting in 2016.

“Right now women can serve in any role they want to in the military, and that’s great, and that should be allowed. But it’s different to be able to do a selective service draft and say, ‘now we’re going to be able to push you into combat; now we’re going to push you into other places,’” Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) told The Epoch Times.

While some lawmakers have expressed opposition to expanding the draft registration requirement to women, others argued that a requirement shouldn’t exist for men either.

“I have been opposed to the draft just in general,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told The Epoch Times on Thursday.

He was joined in that view by Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.).

“We have an all-volunteer military, and I think it’s time to acknowledge that we don’t need to draft anybody,” Ms. Lummis said. “So I just think the better approach right now is either to leave things as they are—not draft women but not draft men either.”

Committee Chair Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I) looks on during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on May 5, 2022. (Tom Brenner/Getty Images)
Committee Chair Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I) looks on during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on May 5, 2022. (Tom Brenner/Getty Images)

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) questioned the underlying motives behind the push to include women, given the U.S. military has been an all-volunteer force for the past half-century.

“Our recruitment and retention numbers are so bad in the military right now I think some of these folks are inching toward the position that maybe we’re gonna need to reinstitute the draft, so they’re trying to get their hands on as many Americans as possible,” the Missouri Republican told The Epoch Times.

The Senate has taken up similar proposals to include women in past NDAA drafts, but the effort hasn’t succeeded. Mr. Hawley noted he has opposed those past efforts and “will certainly try to kill it” this time around.

The Epoch Times reached out to the rest of the majority on the Senate Armed Services Committee for their comment on the proposal to include women in the draft, but they did not respond by press time.

Joseph Lord and Stacy Robinson contributed to this article.