WASHINGTON – Two military leaders say an unpopular requirement for American men should be expanded to include more of the population.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley say they believe women should now be required to register for the draft.
Neller and Milley agreed that the current policy, which requires only men between the ages of 18 and 26-years-old register for the Selective Service System, should be changed after restrictions that stopped women from trying out for combat jobs were lifted last year.
“Every American who’s physically qualified should register for the draft,” said Neller at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday that examined the new policy to admit women into combat units.
“I think that all eligible and qualified men and women should register for the draft,” Milley added.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Army Acting Secretary Patrick Murphy, also testifying at the hearing. would not go as far but did say they believed the issue should be put to a national debate.
“This needs to be looked at as part of a national debate, given the changed circumstances,” said Mabus.
In 1981, the Supreme Court upheld Congress’ decision to exempt women from registering for the draft because women were restricted from combat.
“The existence of combat restrictions clearly indicates the basis for Congress’ decision to exempt women from registration,” Justice William Rehnquist wrote.
Congress would have to change the law in order for women to be drafted to the military.
Murphy said he encourages “the legislative body to look at” the issue.