House and Senate negotiators dropped an effort to force women to sign up for the traditionally all-male draft Tuesday evening.
Republicans stepped in and killed the provision from the final version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), though men from the ages of 18-26 are still required to sign up for Selective Service.
A Senate version of the NDAA would have mandated that women sign up for the draft within 30 days of turning 18. This order would have kicked in on January 2018.
The push to make the draft requirement apply to women came after Secretary of Defense Ash Carter opened all combat roles to women in December 2015. Prior to that point, the rationale behind giving women an exemption from the draft was they weren’t able to serve in combat roles.
That’s all changed now. And since that time, various military leaders have come forward in support of the proposal to expand the draft sign-up to include women, even though in general they oppose the idea of activating the draft, preferring a voluntarily manned military instead. The U.S. has not called for a draft since 1973 during the Vietnam War.
Although the final NDAA no longer includes this provision, what it does feature is a call for a full review of the Selective Service System, in order to see whether the idea of a draft even makes sense anymore. This proposal is similar to the one proposed by GOP Sen. Ben Sasse in June.
Sasse, who argued against the entanglement of culture war issues with national security, applauded the decision to remove the draft language.
“Defense bills are common in Washington but, this year, the big story is that both sides will put national security ahead of unnecessary culture-warring,” Sasse said in a statement. “This is a victory for common sense. It’s encouraging to see Congress do its work instead of jumping into a fight about drafting our mothers, sisters, and daughters when the military isn’t demanding an end to our all-volunteer fighting-force. Republicans and Democrats should be able to agree that keeping our defenses strong is more important than needlessly scoring points on divisive issues.”
The Selective Service System costs around $23 million a year.
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