A commission formed by Congress to assess military and national service is calling for women to be included in selective service registration, Military.com has learned.
The 11-member National Commission on Military, National and Public Service is set to release a final report with 164 recommendations Wednesday, following two-and-a-half years of research and fieldwork on topics including propensity to serve in the military; the civilian-military divide; and the future of the U.S. Selective Service System.
One of the most hotly debated questions considered by the panel is whether women should be required to register for the draft for the first time in U.S. history.
A source with knowledge of the report confirmed that the commission had recommended that women should be made eligible for selective service. Politico first reported Tuesday on the commission's findings.
Other recommendations include keeping the U.S. Selective Service System and keeping the registration requirement, which currently applies to American males within 30 days of their 18th birthday.
The panel was created as a result of debate over whether women should be made to register for the draft. In 2016, the same year all military ground combat and special operations jobs were opened to women for the first time, two Republicans in Congress, both veterans, introduced the "Draft America's Daughters Act of 2016." The move was intended to provoke discussion; both lawmakers planned to vote against their own bill.
But the provision ultimately became law as part of the 2017 defense policy package. From that initiative, the commission was formed to further study the issue.
During 2019 hearings on the question, Katey van Dam, a Marine Corps veteran who flew attack helicopters, argued eloquently in support of including women in selective service registration.
"Today, women sit in C-suites and are able to hold any military job for which they are qualified," she said. "As society expects opportunity parity for women, it is time to also expect equal civic responsibility. In the event of a major war that requires national mobilization, women should serve their country to the same extent as male citizens."
In an interview with Military.com earlier this month, Joe Heck, the chairman of the commission and a brigadier general in the U.S. Army Reserve, said the issue of including women in draft registration had inspired passionate debate among the commissioners.
"The recommendations made represent the consensus of the commission," he said. "We believe that the commission's recommendations specifically in regard to [the U.S. Selective Service System] will best place the nation as able to respond to any existential national security threat that may arise."
Heck also said the commission planned to chart a "cradle-to-grave pathway to service" for Americans.
In addition to the report, the commission will release accompanying draft legislation Wednesday to assist Congress in turning its proposals into law. A future hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee is also planned to discuss the commission's findings.
-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.