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Currently, the law states that U.S. men must enroll for service when they turn 18 in order to be eligible for military service, even though no one has been drafted into the military in more than four decades. Men who fail to enroll for military service can face fines, jail terms, or denial of federal government jobs or student loans.
Calls for the draft to be extended to women have grown in recent years, especially after the Pentagon opened all combat roles to women in 2015. A commission commissioned by Congress to review the draft also supported the change last year.
Several lawsuits have been brought against the current bill alleging that it is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court declined to hear a case brought by the National Coalition for Men in June that challenged the male-only draft.
Whether women should be included in the draft became the subject of a 2016 Capitol Hill defensive battle on Capitol Hill -Ariz.), Despite the opposition raised largely by conservative Republicans. The House Armed Services Committee passed a similar provision that was later removed from the bill.
Rather than pushing the big change, lawmakers compromised by setting up an independent commission to examine the draft as part of a broader review of ways to strengthen the military and civil service. Meanwhile, the panel’s years of study have effectively kept other Congressional actions on women in draft at bay.
The final report of the eleven-member committee published in March 2020 supported, among other things, the demand by women to register for the draft.
“This is a necessary and fair step that will enable one to draw on the talent of a united nation in times of national emergency,” the panel wrote in its report.
Reed, who has campaigned to question women for conscription, said during a March hearing on the panel’s findings he hoped the changes would be incorporated “in large part” into the upcoming Defense Act.
The draft language is just one of several contentious issues likely to be addressed by the Senate Armed Forces Committee. In addition, the senators are expected to discuss an offer from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y.) to reform the military’s way of dealing with sexual assault and extremism by the military.