US Military Leaders Support Having Women Register for the Draft

Selective Service System

U.S. military leaders on Tuesday told lawmakers that women should be required to register for the draft the same way men do.

"I think one of the questions we have to address now is registering for the Selective Service," Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to discuss the military's integration of women into ground combat units.

McCaskill said the 1981 Supreme Court decision to exempt women from registering for the draft was directly related to the restrictions in place that prohibited women from serving in direct combat units such as the infantry.

"The purpose of the registration was to prepare for a draft of combat troops," she said. "Since women are excluded from combat, Congress concluded that they would not be needed in the event of a draft and therefore decided not to register them."

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter changed all that in December when he reversed centuries of U.S. military tradition with the historic announcement that all military occupational specialties would now be open to women.

McCaskill asked Army, Marine and Navy leaders testifying at the hearing if Congress should reconsider the decision.

"Senator, it is my personal view that based on this lifting of restriction for assigning MOSs, that every American that is physically qualified should register for the draft," said Marine Gen. Robert B. Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, referring to the acronym for military occupational specialties.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, agreed with McCaskill that lifting the restrictions on women will help recruiting efforts to encourage more women to consider serving in the military.

Undersecretary of the Army Patrick Murphy said there should be a national debate over issue.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley also supported the draft for women. "I think that all eligible and qualified men and women should register for the draft," he said.

McCaskill agreed.

"I do too," she said. "I think it is the right thing going forward."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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