Debate over female draft re-emerges as Senate considers defense spending

Debate over female draft re-emerges as Senate considers defense spending

November 4, 2021

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Politicians are rehashing the debate over drafting women in the military as the Senate considers provisions for defense appropriations this month.

Fox News reported on Monday that Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., introduced legislation to alter updated wording within the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2021. Senate Armed Services Chair Jack Reed, D-R.I., had proposed changing the National Defense Authorization Act’s language to require “all Americans,” rather than just males, to register for the draft. A recent draft uses the gender-neutral “person.”

“My view is that we have a force now that would not be as effective and efficient without women,” Reed told Fox News at the Aspen Security Forum in Washington, D.C., Wednesday. “I don’t think that most women feel that they shouldn’t register. I think they should.”

Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counterterrorism operations on Capitol Hill on Sept. 28, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)

General Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Fox News he wasn’t aware of a coming draft and wanted to maintain an all-volunteer force. He also defended the idea that women should be able to serve where capable.

“This country is built upon an idea and the idea says … that you and I are created equal, and it doesn’t matter if we’re male or female, if we’re Catholic or Protestant … if you meet the standards of the military, you’re welcome and you’re on the team. And if you’re willing to shed your blood to defend this Constitution, then bring it on,” Milley said at the security conference.

When asked about Milley’s full comments, Hawley reiterated his call for Milley to leave office. “General Milley should resign,” he said in a statement to Fox News. 

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., plans to introduce a bill Monday that would ban major tech companies from selling products on an online marketplace that they run. 

“Most Americans say if a woman wants to serve that’s wonderful – and by the way, women have been absolutely central to our war efforts since we have been a country, in many different ways, including, of course, fighting,” Hawley previously said. “But the idea that they be forced into compulsory service, I just think it’s crazy.”

The idea of drafting women has become less popular among Americans. In August, an Ipsos poll showed that 45% of Americans supported drafting women compared to 63% in 2016. Support also broke down along gender lines with men favoring the idea at 55% compared to just 36% among women.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley testifies during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Ending the U.S. Military Mission in Afghanistan in the Rayburn House Office Building at the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 29, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Rod Lamkey-Pool/Getty Images)

Concerns have generally revolved around the ability of women to meet the physical standards required for certain positions. 

“As we look at the future, we’re going to need a lot more people who can operate autonomous vehicles, etc.,” said Reed. “You don’t have to be six feet, two, etc., to do that and be able to bench press 280 pounds. You just got to be smart and well-educated and willing to serve the nation.” 

Milley said that “perhaps not all women want to be in the infantry, and maybe not all women will meet the standards for the infantry but some women will.”

The issue grabbed headlines in June when the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the decades-old requirement. In her opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor deferred to Congress but indicated that a male-only draft could be challenged as discriminatory.

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