WASHINGTON — Women soon might be required to register for the military draft.
The Senate overwhelmingly passed a $602 billion defense bill Tuesday that included an amendment that would require women to register for the draft — also known as the selective service — for the first time in history.
The National Defense Authorization Act passed 85-13, although some Republican senators protested against the inclusion of the provision pertaining to women and the draft.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, slammed the measure last week during a Senate session, calling it “a radical departure” from American history.
“The idea that we should forcibly conscript young girls into combat to my mind makes little or no sense,” he said.
But the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., rebuked Cruz’s stance, calling including women in the draft “simply fair” now that the Pentagon has opened all military roles to women.
“Every uniform leader of the United States military seemed to have a different opinion from the senator from Texas, whose military background is not extensive,” McCain said.
Cruz never served in the military while McCain was a naval aviator and prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.
The Senate’s bill still needs to go through a reconciliation process with a different House version of the legislation. The White House has threatened to veto the defense bill because of other provisions that the administration’s Office of Management and Budget called “attempts to micromanage” the Department of Defense.
However, the overwhelming number of Senators who approved the bill would be more than enough to override a veto.
The Pentagon recently dropped barriers to female service members participating in combat roles, a move that raised the issue of whether women should be included in the draft were it to be reinstated.
And at the beginning of February, the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller, and the chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Mark Milley, voiced their support for the inclusion of women in the Selective Service now that all military positions, including combat roles, have been opened to women.
The U.S. Marine Corps had opposed the opening of certain combat specializations to women.
The Selective Service system maintains contact information for young Americans who could be potentially subject to military conscription.
The first U.S. attempt at conscription, or mandatory military service, took place in 1862 during the height of the Civil War. The draft was then brought back during the two World Wars.
The modern draft system was set up in 1948 during the Cold War. The draft proved hugely unpopular during the Vietnam War and was curtailed in 1973 with the end of America’s involvement there.
The Selective Service was reinstated in 1980 following the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.
The stated mission of the Selective Service is to “furnish manpower to the Defense Department during a national emergency.” The Pentagon has never called for the draft to be reinstated.
According to the Selective Service website, “Almost all male U.S. citizens and male immigrants, who are 18 through 25, are required to register with Selective Service.” Not having registered is illegal and can have adverse effects for people seeking federal employment or student loans.AlertMe