Should Women Be Forced To Register For Military Draft? Congressional Commission Examines Selective Service

A congressional commission released an interim report Wednesday that studies not if only women should register for the draft when they turn 18, but whether or not the draft should be altered from its current guidelines.

The current system by Selective Service — an independent federal agency separate from the Department of Defense — requires all men ages 18-25 to provide their personal information. This is used in case Congress and the president authorize a military draft.

Although there's no draft in place now, the country requires Selective Service registration for men in case one is called.

Joseph J. Heck is the chairman of the 11-person National Commission on Military, National and Public Service, which took on two major tasks in its study.

The first was to review the Selective Service System's registration process.

In 2015, the Secretary of Defense opened all military combat roles for women. At the time, Selective Service debated whether or not women should also be required to register.

The bipartisan commission is also looking to perhaps scale back or expand the requirements based on the country's "evolving security needs," according to the report.

The second major task by the commission was to increase participation in military, national and public service "as a means to strengthen our nation."

The commission also examined what motivates current military members and public service personnel. They visited each of the country's nine census divisions to pick the brains of those who aspire to serve, and those who don't want to serve at all.

"We met with elected officials, academic experts, military leaders and service members, managers and participants in service programs like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps, and federal, state, local, and tribal government employees," the report stated. "We also talked with business leaders and members of faith-based communities."

The commission traveled to 24 cities from Nashua, New Hampshire to San Diego, California, and from Seattle, Washington to Jacksonville, Florida, with other stops in places like Cranfills Gap, Texas and Vinton, Iowa.

They met with students enrolled from junior high to community colleges and trade schools, along with religious leaders, school administrators and other prominent members of those communities.

According to data in the study, 71 percent of Americans ages 17-24 not meeting the qualifications for military service. Reasons range from medical issues, weight, body art, a history of drug use, educational attainment or criminal records. The commission also discussed those issues during visits around the country.

As for the issue of requiring women to register, the commission said it was still weighing public opinion on the topic.

In two public comments listed in the commission report, one says women should not be required to register for Selective Service because "this civilization depends on the nurturing loving influence that women bring to the public discourse and to the business of raising healthy citizenry."

Another comment said: "If we have a draft, we need the best qualified individuals in our military regardless of gender. All combat positions have opened to women, and they have proven themselves as outstanding warriors and contributors to our military."

The commission also studied the impacts the military and public service have on local communities and are looking at options to get more Americans involved in service. Some options outlined are:

  • Formally ask all young Americans to consider military service
  • Invest in education for parents, teachers, and counselors on military service opportunities
  • Increase the number of high school students who take a version of the military entrance exam that identifies strengths and career interests
  • Reinforce laws that ensure recruiters receive equal access to high schools, colleges, and other postsecondary opportunities
  • Create new pipelines to military service, such as offering financial support for students studying toward technical certifications in exchange for a military service commitment
  • Develop new pathways in areas of critical need to access and develop those with the affinity, interest, training, education, and/or certification in exchange for a military service commitment
  • Encourage more mid-career civilians to enter the military at a rank appropriate to their experience

The commission will hold five public hearings in three different cities starting in February. They are:

Feb. 21 — Washington, D.C. — Topic: Universal Service

March 28 — College Station, TX — Topic: National Service

April 24-25 — Washington, D.C. — Topic: Selective Service

May 15-16 — Washington, D.C. — Topic: Public Service and Military Service

June 20 — Hyde Park, N.Y. — Topic: Creating an Expansion of Service