All military positions, including combat positions, are now open to women, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed and last February the Army eased administrative action against transgender troops. These developments are part of a trend in military policy to increase social equity in the U.S. armed forces. However, despite progressive notions of equality, women should not be required to register for the Selective Service, also known as the draft. In fact, if Congress decides to not incorporate women into the draft, the draft should be put to rest altogether.
The draft, as it is today, began in 1917, its precedent established in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. The most recent attempt to incorporate women into the draft was in a 1981 Supreme Court case, Rostker v. Goldberg. In a 6-3 decision the court ruled that exempting women from the draft registration was not a violation of the 5th Amendment because they were excluded from combat per military policy. On December 3, 2015, this changed when Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced that all military positions, including combat positions, were open to women.
Earlier this month, Representative Duncan Hunter introduced legislation, which would require women to register for the draft. Hunter says he is introducing the bill to force Congress to consider the consequences of integrating women into combat roles.
“If we’re going to talk about women in infantry — specifically in the infantry and in special forces, in combat — then there needs to be discussion with American people,” Hunter said. “Let’s see if the American people want their daughters and sisters drafted, if it ever came to that.”
Hunter’s legislation brings up important questions that the American people need to consider in regard to equality and combat. Although the draft is unlikely to ever be instituted again, the principle of the matter is at hand. Numerous moral and social arguments have been presented on both sides of the issue. However, the professionalization of the U.S. armed forces is the most logical and un-biased argument for not only excluding women from the draft, but doing away with the draft completely.
The movement away from the draft to an all-volunteer force in 1973 marked the beginning of professionalization for the U.S. military. This change has produced the best military in the world. High standards for soldiers enabled this significant improvement in quality. The Pentagon stated that only 29 percent of Americans between 17-24 met all of their qualifying standards for service.
In light of this information, incorporating women, many of whom would not want to participate in combat roles, into the draft pool would endanger the professionalism of the U.S. military forces. Women in the draft pool could potentially compromise “lynchpin for success…the consistent implementation of high standards,” said Katherine Kidder, the Bacevich Fellow at the Center for a New American Security with the Military, Veterans, and Society Program.
Kidder’s premise applies to the draft as a whole. Sure, including women in combat roles could affect combat effectiveness, but an inflow of conscripted recruits via the draft, male or female, would do much greater damage to the increasing professionalization of our military.
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