A congressional commission is recommending substantial structural changes to the nation’s military service call-up program, floating the idea of a mandatory requirement for young women to register for the draft for the first time in history.
This unprecedented change would require every young man and woman between the ages of 18 and 26 to register with the Selective Service system for conscription in case of a national emergency.
The recommendation was in the final 255-page report of the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service, a panel exploring the military-civilian relationship and the call of service to the country backed by the late Arizona Sen. John McCain.
“In the event of a draft, the nation must leverage the skills and talents of all Americans, regardless of gender,” commission member Debra Wada said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters. “Including women in the registration process reaffirms the nation’s fundamental belief in a common defense, and signals that all Americans may be expected to serve.”
Although the report does not require action from Congress, lawmakers are expected to seriously consider the bipartisan panel’s suggestions.
The panel did not explicitly call for the revival of the forced military draft, which was last conducted at the tail end of the Vietnam War. Draft advocates say conscription is needed to fill military manpower needs and address a widening military-civilian gap is which a smaller fraction of the population fights all of the nation’s wars.
A 1981 Supreme Court ruling held that an all-male draft was constitutional because women at the time was barred from combat roles. But the Obama administration opened women in the military to some combat roles in December 2015.
After 2½ years of research and travel, the 11-member commission produced 164 recommendations, including greater investment into civic education starting in elementary school; the creation of a White House council to coordinate military and civilian service efforts; and a campaign to promote awareness of service options for a rising generation of Americans.
“We envision a nation in which service is a common expectation and experience of all Americans — when it is the norm, not the exception,” Commission Vice Chair Mark Gearan, a former Peace Corps director said.
One of the commissions’ main goals is to see 5 million Americans participating in military, national or public service annually by 2031 — the 70th anniversary of the late President John F. Kennedy’s famous admonition to “ask what you can do for your country.”
One recommendation was for a “one-stop shop” where potential volunteers could explore service options and requirements.
The report’s authors say the call for expanded service comes by chance at a “once-in-a-generation moment,” when the nation and the world are being stressed by the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
“At a time when our country is having extremely important conversations about our path forward, we should be prioritizing the recommendations coming out of this commission and working to make them a reality,” former Army Gen. Stan McChrystal, who once commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said.
Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.