Per Politico’s reporting, “Senate Democrats are proposing a sweeping rewrite of the military draft laws aimed at requiring women to register for the Selective Service System [the draft].”
The question of requiring young women to register for the draft has been frequently raised in the past amid the opening up of military combat roles for women. Democratic legislators are now positioned to make the controversial idea law by adding altered language to a crucial military defense bill.
The new language eliminates any reference to males, mandating instead that “All Americans” sign up for the draft.
Senate Armed Services Chair Jack Reed wrote the draft of the proposed changes, which Politico says might be tacked onto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2022 fiscal year, a piece of legislation Congress is poised to pass.
Currently, failure to register for the draft carries a penalty of fines or imprisonment, and those who do not register are refused federal financial aid and federal jobs. Women would be subject to the same penalties if Senate Democrats succeed in ramming through the new language.
The controversial move would reopen a hotly contested debate as to whether women ought to be drafted alongside men in the event of a national wartime emergency requiring conscripted forces.
Female members of the U.S. Armed Forces are currently allowed in every military occupation following the 1994 rescinding of the 1988 “Risk Rule” and the 2015 move by the Pentagon to open all military positions, including combat roles, to women.
According to the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), “women have been able to serve in almost all Air Force and Navy positions since the mid-1990s, save for submarines and some small vessels.”
The CNAS report referred to a “practical meaninglessness of a formal ban on women in combat” due to the radically altered nature of military engagement in the wake of 9/11.
According to the report, “[t]he Commission concluded that the time is right to extend Selective Service System registration to include men and women, between the ages of 18 and 26. This is a necessary and fair step, making it possible to draw on the talent of a unified Nation in a time of national emergency.”
But people on both sides of the political aisle have raised concerns about requiring young women to register to be drafted for war.
Mac Hamilton, Director of Advocacy at Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND), an organization founded in 1982 to promote nuclear disarmament, wrote in a twitter thread Wednesday “This is—and I can't stress this enough—NOT the move, @SenateDems.”
“Whether requiring all men or all people to serve the U.S. military, a potential draft requires people to submit their bodily autonomy to the state & agree to participate in war,” Hamilton wrote.
This is—and I can't stress this enough—NOT the move, @SenateDems.
Whether requiring all men or all people to serve the U.S. military, a potential draft requires people to submit their bodily autonomy to the state & agree to participate in war.https://t.co/sbuwRDMPSB
— Mac Hamilton (she/hers) (@macnham) July 19, 2021
Russ Vought, president of the Center for Renewing America and director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget from 2020 to 2021 under the Trump Administration, also objected to the proposal, tweeting out “No. You are not drafting our daughters.”
No. You are not drafting our daughters. https://t.co/rm7yml9w0u
— Russ Vought (@russvought) July 19, 2021
Jude Eden, a female Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq, said in 2016 she was opposed to forcing women to register for the draft. According to Eden, “[t]he draft is for the sole purpose of replacing combat troops; it’s for replacing infantry… It’s to replace men when they’re dying by the thousands in the front who are attacking the enemy. Women don’t have an equal opportunity to survive in those circumstances.”
“No matter how prevalent feminism becomes, it will not make women’s bones as dense as men’s. It will not give us boundless supplies of testosterone coursing through our veins,” Eden said.
Eden also explained that enemy troops would specifically target female soldiers. “They’ll target those women first,” she said. “Women are higher-value targets not only as POWs, but as video fodder, for video propaganda to demoralize the country, demoralize the units, demoralize the war effort.”
Politico defense reporter Connor O’Brien, who was a co-author of the July 19 Politico report, tweeted out the news that as of Wednesday morning “Faith and anti-war groups” had written to the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) “urging them to eliminate the Selective Service System [SSS] completely.”
New this AM: Faith and anti-war groups write to SASC urging them to eliminate the Selective Service System completely. The committee is expected to consider an amendment from Chairman Jack Reed to require women to register for a military draft during today’s NDAA markup. pic.twitter.com/M3C0LHTU1R
— Connor O'Brien (@connorobrienNH) July 21, 2021
The July 21 document was signed by a slew of interest groups including American Friends Service Committee, the Center on Conscience and War, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation. The text advocates for an outright abolition of the SSS, citing “freedom of religion and belief, civil and human rights, the rule of law, and equality for all.”
The letter’s authors claim that “[t]he argument that extending the registration requirement to women is a way to help reduce gender-based discrimination is specious.”
“It does not represent a move forward for women; it represents a move backward, imposing on young women a burden that young men have had to bear unjustly for decades – a burden that no young person should have to bear at all.”
The letter further raised concerns that moving to force young women to register for the draft “fails to acknowledge or address the pervasive climate of discrimination and sexual violence that is the reality of life for many women in the military.”
A Department of Defense report for the 2019 fiscal year that was published April 2020 found that “[i]n 2018, an estimated 24.2 percent of active duty women” reported sexual harassment, up from 21.4 percent in 2016. According to the report, “Active duty women who experienced sexual harassment were at three times greater risk for sexual assault than those who did not.”
Service members including both men and women reported 6,236 sexual assaults during the 2019 fiscal year, an increase from 6,053 in the previous year.
Given the risks posed to both men and women, the authors of the July 21 letter to Congress advocated for a repeal of the Military Selective Service Act entirely, as promoted by U.S. senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY), among others, in their April 15 legislative proposal S 11394, the “Selective Service Repeal Act of 2021.”
According to the signatories, S 11394 “should be adopted in full as an amendment to the NDAA. Any provision to extend Selective Service to women should be rejected.”
To date, S 11394 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Armed Services but has not yet progressed beyond that.
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