The Pentagon has opened all jobs across the military to women, including once-closed posts in the infantry and special operations forces. The announcement in December came after a nearly three-year process, and with the acknowledgement that women had fought and died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That historic change has raised another historic question: Are women now facing the draft?
The Short Answer
No. Congress would need to change the law that governs Selective Service in order to require women to register, and that hasn’t happened. Congress would also need to pass a law to restore the draft itself – a long shot, considering how unpopular it is. The debate is largely about symbolism and principle.
The Long Answer
President Barack Obama has removed all past restrictions on military service, including by gay, lesbian and transgender troops who want to serve openly and women who qualify to join front-line combat units. The Pentagon’s admission of women to the infantry and other units sparked a debate in Washington over whether that meant women must also register to be drafted along with young men — and whether they might be called up involuntarily.
Obama’s administration has not taken a position, citing the need to study the issue and at least two ongoing lawsuits in the federal court system. Those suits, by plaintiffs who challenged the ban on drafting women, could someday result in a ruling that might change Selective Service. The Supreme Court upheld the ban on registering women in 1981, citing the ban then in place on women in combat. With women now admitted, the court might opt to hear the new cases and it could issue a new ruling.
For now, at least two top military commanders – Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller – have said they personally support registering and potentially drafting women.
Read more: NPR