Congress Considers Expanding Draft to Women

Proposal is unlikely to become law amid pushback from Republicans
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 20, 2024 8:09 AM CDT
Congress Considers Expanding Draft to Women
Sgt. Katiushka Rivera, a soldier assigned to the 82nd Airborne gets fitted for a modular scalable vest (MSV) during a fielding event in Fort Bragg, N.C., on Sept. 13, 2021.   (Jason Amadi/U.S. Army via AP)

Congressional lawmakers are considering a proposal to update mandatory conscription to include women for the first time. With fewer than 1% of US adults serving in active duty combat roles and the Pentagon facing recruitment challenges, military experts in 2020 recommended Congress include women in the draft "in the national security interest of the United States." Lawmakers have taken up the subject before, but all proposed changes to the draft have previously been abandoned. That may happen again. Though the proposal to require women as well as men to register for the draft has support on both sides of the aisle and was approved by a Senate committee last week, it's unlikely to become law amid pushback from conservative Republicans, per the New York Times.

Sen. Jack Reed, the Democratic chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, argues the US will "need all able-bodied citizens 18 and above" in warfighting positions in the event of "a serious, serious situation." "We need cyber experts, we need intelligence analysts, linguists," he says, per the Hill, adding "there are a lot of women out there that can do this better than men." Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell has also expressed support for the proposal. Republican Sen. Susan Collins says the change "seems logical." But GOP Sen. Josh Hawley, who led efforts to remove the female draft requirement from the defense authorization billsCo in 2021 and 2022, has painted it as another "woke" move from the left.

Republican Senate candidate Sam Brown, a former Army captain who is challenging Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen, is using Rosen's support for the proposal to attack her. Meanwhile, GOP Sen. Roger Wicker, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has said he'll try to remove the provision from the annual defense authorization bill. There is also some concern that any support will hurt Democrats in tight reelection races, per the Hill. Less controversial is a proposal to automatically register those eligible for the draft, saving the Selective Service agency millions of dollars. At least 46 states and territories have laws that automatically register eligible men aged 18 to 25 when they get a driver's license or apply for college, ensuring an 84% compliance rate in 2023, the Times reports. (More military draft stories.)

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