California representative Duncan Hunter and Montana representative Ryan Zinke have teamed up to introduce a bill to extend Selective Service registration requirement to women. Selective Service is the system by which wartime military conscription is carried out in the United States. To date, only men have been required to register, and only men have ever been drafted into the U.S. military. However, women’s eligibility for various areas of service has changed recently. The two representatives filed the Draft America’s Daughters act to force congressional debate on women’s role in the military after the expansion of women’s eligibility for combat.
In December, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter ordered an integration of every area of the services, opening previously unavailable combat roles to women who qualify. Representatives Hunter and Zinke, both veterans, have called the decision reckless and dangerous. They cite differing opinions among military leaders as one reason why debate on this issue is needed.
In an editorial written for the Marine Corps Times, Representative Hunter accused the administration of ignoring recommendations based on a Marine Corps independent study, as well as recommendations from the Special Operations community, garnered though surveys and focus groups.
Writers for The National Review and The Federalist both strongly criticized the idea of including women in the draft, labeling it dangerous and barbaric.
While the bill’s creators view it only as a catalyst to elicit debate, some on Capitol Hill are prepared to back it. This includes senator John McCain, also a veteran, a former POW, and Chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Stars and Stripes quotes McCain as calling the expansion “the logical conclusion of the decision to open combat positions to women.”
McCain’s statement echos those of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley and Marine Corps commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller. The logic may be in reference to the 1981 Supreme Court ruling on Rostker v. Goldberg, which cited differences in male and female military roles as reason to reject constitutional objection for excluding women from selective service registration requirements and by extension, the draft.
Some presidential hopefuls have also weighed in on the idea. In statements made during a debate a few days after the bill was introduced, Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Marco Rubio supported it. Senator Ted Cruz, who was not asked about the bill in the debate, later sent out a press release condemning the idea as immoral and calling political correctness dangerous. And while politicians contend with the question of whether to include women, the residents of the district where their operations are based have their own apparent opinions on the draft. The District of Columbia has the country’s lowest rate of compliance, at only 34%.
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