The Senate Armed Services Committee has voted to amend language in their annual guidelines and require women to register for the draft — for the first time in American history.
The National Defense Authorization Act approved by the committee on Wednesday “amends the Military Selective Service Act to require the registration of women for Selective Service,” according to a summary released on the closed door vote.
There has been no draft in the US since the Vietnam War when millions were required to serve without volunteering. Despite the hiatus, all American men between the ages of 18 and 25 must register with the Selective Service System should a national emergency arise. Pentagon officials have repeatedly claimed that they intend to keep service volunteer based.
Those who do not sign up for the Selective Service face the possibility of being ineligible for federal financial aid to go to college.
The Supreme Court refused to hear a similar case on gender-based registration last June.
“It remains to be seen, of course, whether Congress will end gender-based registration under the Military Selective Service Act,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor in an opinion, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Brett Kavanaugh. “But at least for now, the Court’s longstanding deference to Congress on matters of national defense and military affairs cautions against granting review while Congress actively weighs the issue.”
Republicans and Democrats have been debating the issue of including women in the draft since 2017, shortly after the military changed its regulations and allowed females to service in forward-facing combat missions.
The House Armed Services subcommittees will take up the NDAA on July 28 and 29 and their full panel will consider the bill on Sept. 1, according to a report from Roll Call. Unlike the Senate, their markups are typically open to the public.
Roll Call noted that the NDAA has been signed into law for 60 consecutive years.
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