- A Senate panel included the requirement that women register for the draft in its annual defense policy bill.
- Changes to the draft law have been debated since restrictions on military service for women were lifted.
- Last year, a congressionally-mandated commission argued in favor of amending the law.
The Senate Armed Services Committee’s proposed defense policy bill mandates that women register for the Selective Service System, commonly known as the draft.
A summary of the Senate panel’s version of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act released Thursday calls for amending “the Military Selective Service Act to require the registration of women for Selective Service.”
The summary of the bill confirms earlier reporting from Politico that Senate Democrats are pushing for big changes to the military draft laws. The requirement for women to register is several steps from being a reality: the bill would have to pass the Senate and also the House, and be signed into law by President Joe Biden.
Although there has not been a draft since Vietnam and the US military remains an all-volunteer force, current law requires all men to register for Selective Service when they turn 18 should a draft be required.
Discussions on expanding the Selective Service System are not new, as Congress has been debating this issue, at times fiercely, since the last of the restrictions on military service for women were lifted in 2015.
Past proposals to change the system have never made it through legislative negotiations to become law.
In 2016, rather than make changes, lawmakers compromised by creating an independent commission to study the draft law and its requirements.
Last year, the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service, a congressionally-mandated commission, reported that expanding the Selective Service System “is a necessary and fair step, making it possible to draw on the talent of a unified Nation in a time of national emergency,” Politico reported at the time.
The existing draft law, which was first passed in 1917, has come under fire in multiple lawsuits questioning the constitutionality of this legislation.
Last month, the US Supreme Court declined to hear National Coalition for Men vs. Selective Service System, a case that debated whether an all-male draft is unconstitutional.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor explained in a statement on the matter that “the court’s long standing deference to Congress on matters of national defense and military affairs cautions against granting review while Congress actively weighs the issue.”
The court’s decision was in line with arguments from the US solicitor general that said Congress rather than the courts should be responsible for making decisions on the draft law.
Outside of the arguments surrounding the expansion of the Selective Service System, there have also been calls for abolishing it altogether, with some lawmakers arguing that “this outdated government program no longer serves a purpose.”