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Senate committee advances bill to draft women into US military

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(The Center Square) – Members of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee have advanced a bill that, if passed, paves the way for requiring women to register to be drafted into the U.S. military.

The committee passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act on June 13 by a vote of 22-3. It authorizes $923 billion for fiscal 2025 funding for national defense, including a 4.5% pay increase for all troops.

It also includes a provision to amend the Military Selective Service Act to require women to register with the Selective Services System (SSS), the database that is used for a draft.

Although currently joining the U.S. military is voluntary, federal law requires all male U.S. citizens and male immigrants between the ages of 18 and 25 to register with the SSS.

“Selective Service registration is required by law as the first part of a fair and equitable system that, if authorized by the President and Congress, would rapidly provide personnel to the Department of Defense while at the same time providing for an Alternative Service Program for conscientious objectors,” SSS states. “By registering, a young man remains eligible for jobs, state-based student aid in 31 states, Federally-funded job training, and U.S. citizenship for immigrant men.”

“Selective Service’s mission is to register virtually all men residing in the United States. If a draft is ever needed, the process must be fair, and that fairness depends on having all eligible men register,” SSS says. “Failure to register is a felony punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and/or 5 years imprisonment. Also, a person who knowingly counsels, aids, or abets another to fail to comply with the registration requirement is subject to the same penalties.”

Previous attempts to require women to register with the SSS have failed. Earlier this month, the U.S. House passed its $895 billion NDAA, which includes a significantly higher 19.5% pay increase for troops, and no female SSS requirements.

For weeks, U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, has been sounding the alarm about attempts to draft women. “If Republicans even think about drafting women, every ounce of my being will be directed at destroying what’s left of the party,” he said in an email to constituents.

He also started a social media campaign, “Don’t Draft our Daughters,” asking “will we as a country force the horrors of war upon our wives, our sisters, and our daughters?”

He also expressed his appreciation for thousands of women who voluntarily serve and clarified that opposing drafting women isn’t about questioning or minimizing their service.

The Pentagon and the Biden administration have been pushing for women to register for the draft in response to all branches in the U.S. Armed Services continuing to fail to meet recruitment goals, The New York Times reported.

If at some point in the future, if the all-voluntary armed services couldn’t support a national emergency or war, federal law authorizes Congress and the president to reinstate the draft, requiring certain men to serve. The last draft was in 1973 at the end of the Vietnam War. If another draft were called, the process could be similar to the Vietnam era, Millitary.com explains.

While committee chair Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI, supports drafting women, he said he would vote against the bill in the full Senate “because it includes a funding increase that cannot be appropriated without breaking lawful spending caps and causing unintended harm to our military. I appreciate the need for greater defense spending to ensure our national security, but I cannot support this approach.”

Committee ranking member Sen. Roger Wicker, R-MS, said the bill “shows there is bipartisan support for doing more to maintain deterrence and protect American interests. This year’s NDAA results are a testament to the tradition of bipartisanship, vigorous debate, and good working order on which this committee prides itself.”

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, an outspoken opponent to drafting women, said, “Real men don’t draft women. … We will not draft women. I’m with Chip Roy – this will happen over my dead body.”

Female Republican senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine support the proposal. Murkowski championed a similar one while serving in the Alaska statehouse; Collins said it “seems logical,” the Times reported.

In 2023, more than 15 million men were registered with the SSS, according to federal data.

In 2020, anti-draft activists called on Congress to enact legislation to end the SSS registration altogether after a federal district court judge ruled the current process is unconstitutional. “The issue is not whether women should have to register for the draft, but whether the government should be planning or preparing to draft anyone,” they said.

After July 4, when the Senate returns from recess, it will debate and vote on the NDAA. Whatever version it passes will next be reconciled with the House version in a bicameral conference committee. Each chamber will then be required to approve the final version before it is sent to the president.

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