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History of the Selective Service and the Draft

Albeit with some qualifying distinctions, women have always served in the U.S. Military since the birth of America. Their roles, responsibilities and numbers have steadily increased over the years and their strides in equality have afforded them the same opportunities as men. However, they have never been subject to Selective Service registration or a military draft in America. Women continue fighting towards being considered equals in the eyes of the nation even though U. S. Military policies changed, lifting all restriction on combat roles. Some might say it is time while others might say women should never have to register. Women should be given the same legal obligation as men to register for the Selective Service by their 18th birthday.

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In 1917, Congress passed the Military Selective Service Act (MSSA) at the end of World War I, which authorized them to draft men as troops. President Roosevelt supported amending the act to draft women as nurses during World War II and the act passed in both the House and Senate just before the end of the war. The country came close to drafting women as nurses during World War II, but a surge of volunteers made it unnecessary. The draft, again, was used during both the Korean and Vietnam Wars and pulled from qualified men only. There was a lot of protest against the Vietnam War and the draft during this time. Nobody wanted to send the nation’s boys off to fight and die in a senseless war. Many men would find ways to dodge the draft. The draft’s immense unpopularity during the Vietnam War saw to its end in 1973 and in 1975, whereupon registration for the Selective Service was no longer required. U. S. Military would now and for the next 40 years be considered an All-Volunteer Force.
In 1980, the MSSA was reinstated and, once again, men between the ages 18 and 26 would have to register with the Selective Service. This reinstatement of the Selective Service Act came in response to heightened Russian military action and President Carter wanted to ensure that the nation had the contingence force to meet any possibly threats. Included in the Act was an amendment to consider women for registration and service in the U. S. Military. Congress approved reactivating registration, but declined the amendment due to Department of Defense (DOD) policy excluding women from assignments in combat positions. Even with the reinternment of the MSSA by President Carter, the draft was never enacted after 1973.
December of 2015 brought a major shift to the U. S. Military with the announcement that all military jobs were now open to women. Military officials and Senators took this opportunity to reexamine and amend the MSSA to include female registrants. In June of 2016, the Senate passed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that included the amendment as the next logically progressive course of action. The primary reason for the Selective Service’s exclusion of women relied upon women’s restrictions from combat roles. Still, many legislators oppose having the nation’s daughters, mothers and wives being drafted and forced to fight in a war.
There are speculations that Congress had removed the amendment and corroborated a compromised version of the legislation with the Senate. The White House initially opposed women having to register with the Selective Service, but in December of 2016 voiced support for amendment and with women in combat roles. The final decision may not be with the President, Senate, or Congress, but rather with Federal Judicial branch, which may ultimately be the deciding voice on whether this policy is effectuated.
Legal case against the Selective Service
The MSSA has been legally challenged on severely occasions by citizens and organizations claiming unfair discrimination or unconstitutional merit. The issues are: who is being discriminated against and what rights are being violated? The answer: women for not having the same obligation and opportunities as men to defend our country or men for being singled out and forced to fight in a war in the event of the draft being enacted.
In July of 1980, Robert Goldberg filed a lawsuit against Bernard Rostker and the Selective Service System, claiming the MSSA violated the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause and was unconstitutional. Rostker appealed the decision of the Pennsylvania Federal Court to the Supreme Court when Goldberg won. In the Supreme Court case of Rostker v. Goldberg (453 U.S. 57) of 1981, the court ruled in favor of Rostker stating that the MSSA does not violate the Fifth Amendment due process clause due to current restriction of combat roles on women. Congress concluded the MSSA’s purpose relied on drafting combat troops, and restrictions made registering women null.
In April of 2013, James Lesmeister and the National Coalition for Men filed a lawsuit against the Selective Service Administration once more claiming that the MSSA was unconstitutional. The Central District of California Court dismissed the case, stating U. S. Military policies still excluded women from combat positions. However, in February of 2016, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the court’s dismissal, since the lawsuit had new legitimacy due to combat roles being now opened to women.
Women in combat roles
Women have societally fought hard to be considered equally qualified for the same positions and opportunities as men, and the U.S. Military is no exception. Since the 1990 and for the next 27 years, women have started to take a more direct role in combat positions and so has their heroism and sacrifices. The nation saw the first of many in the increase of women’s roles; U.S. Navy warship and U.S. Air Force fighter squadrons commanders, women fly fighter jets in combat and combat missions off of aircraft carriers, cleared to serve aboard combat ships at sea and aboard submarines, and most recently with two women graduating from the U. S. Army’s Ranger School. Army Capitan, Kristen Griest, one of the first women to graduate became the first female infantry officer in U. S. Army history (Kamarck, 2016b, p. 7). Women are now being accepted to many training courses that were once off limits. The U. S. Army has approved female officers for the Infantry and Armor branches and the U. S. Marine Corps approved women as riflemen and machine gunners.
Women’s heroism and sacrifice
The Global War on Terrorism has proven that women being outside of combat roles do not equate women not being involved in combat. Women have earned an overwhelming number awards for valor during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraq Freedom (OIF) than any conflict before. The awards included Silver Stars, Distinguished Flying Crosses, Air Medals, and Bronze Stars the same awards men have received valor in combat roles. U. S. Army Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester became the first female soldier to be awarded the Silver Star since World War II and to be cited for close combat action (Kamarck, 2016b, p. 7). Heroism and sacrifice often intertwine, and women bore witness to sacrifice in combat, just like men. Margaret Cochran Corbin became the first woman to receive a military pension for an injury sustained in defense of Fort Washington during the American Revolutionary War (Kamarck b p1). The nonlinear warfare of the OEF and OIF put women in direct combat engagement, as a result women casualties and wounded then all other military conflicts combined.
Women required register
In a world of unpredictable political climates, inevitable foreign and domestic threats to our country and its U. S. Military call forth the need for the Selective Service. It serves as a natural deterrent to possible threats, stating that the U. S. Military has the ability to assemble a much larger force in times of crisis. The Selective Service System to as “a relatively low-cost ‘insurance policy’ against potential future threats that may require national mobilization beyond what could be supported by the all-volunteer force” (Kamarck, 2016a, p. 24). Having women register for the Selective Service benefits our country twofold as it grants the U. S. Military an equally qualified group of citizens protecting the nation and it shows the U. S. Military has a higher ability to fill its ranks. The nation would truly show women are equal and in a time of national emergence can be called upon.
Women not required register
The ethical and moral issues arise by excluding women from registering now that military restrictions have been lifted; men would be forced to fight on the front line while women get to choose if the draft is ever enacted, and the MSSA is unconstitutional and discriminatory. Concerns of fairness and equality for men are raised when exemptions for women are currently in place, as men would not have an equal opportunity to opt out of combat assignments. The ability to choose opting from combat may cause its own issues for the Service, as many would choose to avoid combat, especially in the event of a war or national emergency (Kamarck, 2016a, p. 26). Legal cases can now be made against the MSSA being unconstitutional and discriminatory. Previous court roles will have to be re-examined and whether or not the MSSA violate the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause will have to be addressed. A clear message would be sent throughout the nation regarding women’s equality in society and their inability to protect the nation, even with the changes in military views (McGuire, 2014, p. 709).
Resolving the Selective Service System
By resolving the Selective Service, it could potentially increase the possibility of crisis throughout the world. Studies have shown that if the government tried to reintroduce a registration requirement during a time of a national need, there would sufficient challenges fully staffing and optimizing the necessary infrastructure that would be needed to meet the urgent DoD requirements. Enforcing a new registration requirement during time of need would likely result in a very low compliance rates, making difficult to establish a database of eligible individuals. (Kamarck, 2016a, p. 25)
The desirable outcome for the Selective Service will be with either women having to register or resolving the system all together. The truth is, nobody wants to see their sons or daughters being forced to fight in a war. The draft has been negatively perceived since the Vietnam War. Even the mention of the draft during any military action insets many to protests. The last time the draft was enacted, the overwhelming unpopularity caused it to be resolved. Many men found ways to avoid the draft, some more extreme than others. The Selective Service System has come under legal fire many times, suits claiming unfair discrimination or unconstitutional merit. For far too long, the Selective Service has been gender-exclusionary in regards to U.S Military restriction on combat roles. Now that policies have changed, so should the Selective Service. Regardless of gender, people who meet the required standards should be assigned to roles consistent to their abilities.

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