American women may soon be registering for the military draft the same way all men are required to within 30 days of their eighteenth birthday. On Tuesday, top Army and Marine generals testified at a Senate Arms Services Committee hearing on the integration of women into combat, stating that women should be required to register for the military draft, the same way men do.
“All eligible and qualified men and women should register for the draft,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley stated during his testimony.
Milley’s comments come in the aftermath of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s announcement in December that he had lifted all restrictions (with no exemptions) that prevented women from serving in all combat and special operations jobs, including green berets and Navy Seals. Carter’s decision made history, but seemed to do so without considering the full consequences of the decision—the primary one being that women will now likely have to register for the draft.
Carter’s Decision Changes Everything
According to sss.gov, the Selective Service Act states that, “Almost all male U.S. citizens and male immigrants, who are 18 through 25, are required to register with Selective Service.” A Supreme Court ruling in 1981, Roster v. Goldberg, and a 1994 review of the act found that a male-only draft was constitutional due to the fact that the primary purpose of the draft is to fill combat replacements during a time of war. Women were exempt from serving in those combat positions, therefore there was no need to register for the draft.
Here’s where the problem lies. Now that the restriction on women in combat has been lifted and women can fill those combat jobs, the law has now become discriminatory towards men.
This is no longer an issue of whether or not women are capable, whether women will make the military stronger, or if they will be able to make the same standards—those are all issues that surrounded Carter’s decision to lift the combat restrictions for women. But the decision has been made. Now that women are allowed to serve in combat, the issue is now that the Selective Service law is discriminatory for only requiring men to register.
Boot Up, Women
As a woman who served over seven and a half years in the Army as a light attack/reconnaissance Kiowa Warrior helicopter pilot and was in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, I fully support removing gender-based restrictions for combat jobs in the military and allowing women to have the opportunity to apply for combat jobs as long as all mission and physical standards remain the same as they do for men.
This means I also support Congress amending the Selective Service law to require all eligible men and women in this country to register for the draft. You don’t get to pick and chose when equality applies to you. Since women are now allowed to try out for the same specialized combat jobs as men, women should have the same draft requirement. That’s what equality looks like. Not quotas, not double standards, not separate physical standards or lowered selection criteria. The responsibility of the military draft lies equally with both men and women.
Over the past year, equal opportunity for women in combat has been a front and center issue for the military, with little discussion about the implications it will have on the draft. It is completely hypocritical to support gender equality for women in the military and not support women having to register for the draft. Equal opportunities means equal responsibilities, and when it comes to defending this nation, no one is exempt merely based on his or her sex.