White House an­nounces its sup­port for in­clud­ing women in mil­i­tary draft

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Josh Lederman

wash­ing­ton » The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion de­clared its sup­port Thurs­day for re­quir­ing women to reg­is­ter for the mil­i­tary draft, a sym­bolic but sig­nif­i­cant shift that re­flects the U.S. mil­i­tary’s evo­lu­tion from a male-dom­i­nated force to one seek­ing to in­cor­po­rate women at all lev­els.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama has been con­sid­er­ing whether to adopt the po­si­tion since last De­cem­ber, when De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash Carter or­dered the mil­i­tary to open all jobs to women, in­clud­ing the most ar­du­ous com­bat posts. Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, said Obama be­lieves women have “proven their met­tle,” in­clud­ing in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“As old bar­ri­ers for mil­i­tary ser­vice are be­ing re­moved, the ad­min­is­tra­tion sup­ports — as a log­i­cal next step — women reg­is­ter­ing for the Selec­tive Ser­vice,” Price said, us­ing the for­mal name for the mil­i­tary draft.

The White House em­pha­sized that the ad­min­is­tra­tion re­mains com­mit­ted to an all-vol­un­teer mil­i­tary — mean­ing women, like men, wouldn’t be forced to serve un­less there were a na­tional emer­gency such as a ma­jor world war. Chang­ing the pol­icy would re­quire an act of Congress, and there are no signs that law­mak­ers plan to move swiftly to en­act the change.

The De­fense De­part­ment echoed Obama’s po­si­tion, first re­ported by USA To­day. Pen­tagon press sec­re­tary Peter Cook said that Carter be­lieves the in­clu­sion of women in com­bat roles has strength­ened the mil­i­tary’s might.

“He thinks it makes sense for women to reg­is­ter for Selec­tive Ser­vice, just as men must,” Cook said.

Un­der cur­rent law, women can vol­un­teer to serve in the mil­i­tary but aren’t re­quired to reg­is­ter for the draft. All adult men must reg­is­ter within 30 days of their 18th birth­day.

The new pos­ture from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion comes amid a dis­agree­ment in Congress about whether to add women to the draft. Ear­lier this week, House and Se­nate ne­go­tia­tors agreed to strip a pro­vi­sion from the an­nual de­fense pol­icy bill that would have re­quired young women to reg­is­ter.

The mea­sure had roiled so­cial con­ser­va­tives, who de­cried it as an­other step to­ward the blur­ring of gen­der lines. Rep. Pete Ses­sions, R-Texas, spoke for some Repub­li­cans when he de­scribed the pro­vi­sion as “co­erc­ing Amer­ica’s daugh­ters” into draft reg­is­tra­tion.

But pro­po­nents of in­clud­ing women in the draft pool viewed the re­quire­ment as a sen­si­ble step to­ward gen­der equal­ity. They pointed to the Pen­tagon’s de­ci­sion last year to open all front-line com­bat jobs to women as re­mov­ing any jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for gen­der re­stric­tions on reg­is­tra­tion.

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