With women eligible for combat, is draft registration next?

Nov 10, 2014 by and

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As Norway became the first NATO country to require women to register for the draft this month, it has American military analysts debating whether the U.S. could be on the verge of taking the same step, too.

It was back in 1981 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that requiring only men to register for the draft was constitutional, since there were laws that banned women from combat.

Essentially, the argument went, since the purpose of registration for Selective Service — which all men must do at the age of 18, regardless of whether there is a draft in effect — is to prepare for combat, and women are excluded from combat, then they would not be needed in the event of a draft.

But with the Pentagon’s decision to lift the ban on women in combat by January 2016, those Supreme Court arguments from 33 years ago may no longer apply, and mandatory registration for the draft might be the next logical step.

A congressionally chartered association of U.S. military reservists passed a resolution last year calling for the registration of women for Selective Service, noting that 14 percent of active duty troops and nearly one-fifth of National Guard and Reserves are now women.

Even though 275,000 women have deployed to fight America’s recent wars, “an inequality exists between men and women between the ages of 18-26 under the Selective Service Act,” the Reserve Officers Association of the United States notes.

“Women should be treated equally as responsible, competent, contributing members of America’s society.”

While men are required to register for the Selective Service, there has not been a draft in the United States since 1973. Pentagon officials strongly believe an all-volunteer force performs much better than a conscripted force would. The presence of women on the rolls has the potential to make a draft even less politically palatable.

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