Two House Republicans -- both opponents of opening up combat roles to women -- introduced a bill Thursday called "Draft America's Daughters Act of 2016," which would require women to register for the draft.
It would "amend the Military Selective Service Act to extend the registration and conscription requirements of the Selective Service System, currently applicable only to men between the ages of 18 and 26, to women between those ages to reflect the opening of combat arms Military Occupational Specialties to women," according to copy of the text.
Hunter, a Major in the Marine reserves and a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, and Zinke, a retired Navy SEAL Commander who served in Iraq, were both likely to vote against their own bill but argued that a debate in Congress was necessary on lifting the combat exclusion rule for women.
They both stated that the bill was a response to the action taken in December by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in ordering that all billets in the military, including infantry and armor, be opened to women who qualify. The service branches currently are working through methods of implementing Carter's order.
In a statement, Hunter said, "It's unfortunate that a bill like this even needs to be introduced. And it's legislation that I might very well vote against should it be considered during the annual defense authorization process."
However, he added, "If this administration wants to send 18-20 year old women into combat, to serve and fight on the front lines, then the American people deserve to have this discussion through their elected representatives."
Both Hunter and Zinke argued that Carter ignored the complaints of the Marine Corps and Special Operations troops in taking gender out of the equation in qualifying for a combat MOS.
"I know women play an invaluable role in war. My daughter was a damn good Navy Diver," Zinke said in a statement. "Many times women can gain access to strategic sites that men never could. However, this Administration's plan to force all front-line combat positions and Special Forces to integrate women into their units is reckless and dangerous."
Zinke added, "The natural conclusion of that policy is that this opens young women up to the draft. This is a very important issue that touches the heart of American family, and I believe we need to have an open and honest discussion about it."
Carter and the service secretaries have made clear that requiring women to register for the draft was up to Congress and they have yet to voice any opposition to such a move.
Last fall at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, retired Adm. Eric Olson, a former Navy SEAL commander of Special Operations Command and a legendary figure in the Special Ops community, offered up the same complaints about women in combat made by Hunter and Zinke when he asked, "Are we willing to cause every 18-year-old girl to sign up for Selective Service?"
At a separate panel, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James shrugged off Olson's remarks and said, "I see no reason why not to have that requirement (registration) for men and women."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.