Bipartisan Public Service Commission Still Mulling Drafting Women

Airman Mackenzie Lakatos, 388th Maintenance Squadron, assembles munitions at Hill AFB, Utah, Jan. 17, 2019. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw.

A congressionally created bipartisan commission considering whether women should be required to sign up for selective service released its interim report this week, noting the panel is still mulling the idea of allowing women into the draft.

“Many do not realize the US has a requirement for men to serve the nation if drafted,” according to a Jan. 23 summary of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service’s interim report. “Further, some Americans are surprised that women are currently neither required nor permitted to register for selective service. Others question the need for the Selective Service System. We are carefully considering the issue and actively seeking input on this.”

The commission is also considering ways to create “universal service,” through which every American can spend at least a year in the armed forces, organizations like AmeriCorps, or government jobs.

While many Americans strongly believe in a “transformative” new approach to service, the commission said, economic and social barriers to participation still exist. Many citizens are ineligible for military service as well.

To broaden the ways people can serve, the commission argues agencies and organizations can get better at sharing information about and referring candidates for opportunities. More high schoolers could take a military entrance exam that points out their strengths and possible careers, and high schools can add service semesters into their curricula. Federal agencies can also improve at recruiting and hiring interns and fellows, then offer them permanent positions.

“With respect to the Selective Service System, we are considering options that could: expand the registration requirement for the Selective Service System to include women, identify individuals who possess critical skills the nation might need, call for volunteers during times of emergency using the existing system, and incorporate reasonable changes to identify, evaluate, and protect those who object to military service, but are otherwise willing to serve,” according to the summary.

The commission is also looking at how the federal government can encourage better civic education in elementary, middle, and high schools.

Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who with the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) spearheaded an effort to establish the commission in the Fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, reiterated that women should be included in the draft and praised the panel’s findings.

“I think this report will help spark national dialogue and debate that will lead to lasting, structural reforms and promote opportunities for expanding military, national, and public service,” Reed said in a Jan. 23 release. “It advances the ideal that there should be both an expectation and an opportunity for everyone to serve. This preliminary report offers an analytical framework to examine and explore potential options that can be assessed in greater detail.”