The top generals in the Army and the Marine Corps told Congress Tuesday they believe women should have to register for the draft now that combat roles have opened to all genders.
Both Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley responded in the affirmative to a question from Sen. [crscore]Claire McCaskill[/crscore] as to whether Congress should look into expanding selective service to include women, as well.
Previously, top generals have kept silent on the issue, saying the matter would require further research. In October 2015, then-Army Secretary John McHugh suggested that if women enter combat roles, the draft is one element that will have to be reconsidered, given the objective of “true and pure equality” in the military.
Selective Service, otherwise known as the draft, currently requires all men from age 18 to 26 to sign up for military service in the event the nation needs more manpower to mount a defense. Previously, courts have ruled that women should be exempt from the draft as the intended purpose is to bring men in for the purpose of combat. But since women were excluded from ground combat roles, it made little sense to require them to sign up. But that all changed in December when Defense Secretary Ash Carter made the final decision to open all combat roles to women.
The question took place in the context of a Senate Committee on Armed Services hearing on implementation plans underway to achieve Carter’s December mandate.
Neller responded in a straightforward manner.
“It’s my personal view that based on this lifting of restrictions for assignment to unit MOS that every American who is physically qualified should register for the draft.”
“I think that all eligible and qualified men and women should register for the draft,” Milley added.
“I do, too. I think it’s the right thing going forward.” McCaskill responded.
But the other service leaders on the civilian side gave more evasive answers.
“Senator, I think as you’ve very correctly pointed out, this needs to be looked at as part of a national debate, given the changed circumstances,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said.
Under Secretary of the Army [crscore]Patrick Murphy[/crscore] followed in Mabus’ footsteps, saying, “Yes, I believe it should be a national debate.”
McCain couldn’t believe Murphy’s response
“You would encourage, what?” McCain asked.
“A national debate, Mr. Chairman.”
“You were asked for your opinion, Mr. Secretary,” McCain said.
Murphy awkwardly responded, “Yes,” but instead of a follow-up from McCaskill to clarify exactly what Murphy meant, the hearing moved forward.
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