The White House and Pentagon have come out in support of forcing women to sign up for the draft just days after House and Senate negotiators stripped this exact provision from the final version of the annual defense bill.
Negotiators removed a provision Tuesday evening that would have required women to sign up for the draft 30 days after turning 18. Now, the White House and Pentagon are throwing their weight behind keeping the female draft dream alive, The Associated Press reports.
Instead of requiring women to sign up for Selective Service, the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act includes a provision to study the draft system to see whether it even makes sense anymore–that is, whether it is still efficient or cost-effective, given how satisfied military officials seem to be with a voluntarily-manned force. The draft itself hasn’t been used since the Vietnam War in 1973, and the reason women have been exempt is because they weren’t allowed to serve in combat roles.
But that situation changed under the Obama administration when Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced in early December, 2015, that all combat roles–without exception–would be open to women.
Suddenly, the legal justification for draft exemption vanished, but conservatives in Congress have been bent on keeping women away from Selective Service.
And although those conservatives won the fight in terms of the final version of the NDAA, it passed neither the House, nor the Senate. And now, with this announcement from the White House and Pentagon, it’s likely that the debate over women and the draft could become a veto-level issue.
Certainly, Democrats who have supported making women sign up for the draft won’t let the issue go easily, either.
Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier has backed the proposal of making women sign up for Selective Service.
“I actually think if we want equality in this country, if we want women to be treated precisely like men are treated and that they should not be discriminated against, we should be willing to support a universal conscription,” she said in April.