Continuing the debate over a massive expansion of the Selective Service, the White House today announced that President Obama is in favor of expanding registration for the military draft to include all women when they turn 18.
"As old barriers for military service are being removed, the administration supports — as a logical next step — women registering for the Selective Service," said Ned Price, a spokesman for Obama's National Security Council.
The White House had previously expressed neutrality on the controversy, but took a position in a statement to USA TODAY on Thursday.
Under current law, women can volunteer to serve in the military but aren't required to register for the draft. All adult men must register within 30 days of their 18th birthday.
The announcement comes ahead of a planned House vote on a bill to study the expansion of the military draft, or to potentially eliminate the Selective Service outright. The White House has repeatedly insisted they have no plans to bring the draft back, but want to force everyone to register anyhow to “foster a sense of public service.”
The measure had roiled social conservatives, who decried it as another step toward the blurring of gender lines akin to allowing transgender people to use public lavatories and locker rooms. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, spoke for a number of Republicans when he described the provision as "coercing America's daughters" into draft registration.
But proponents of including women in the draft pool viewed the requirement as a sensible step toward gender equality. They pointed to the Pentagon's decision last year to open all front-line combat jobs to women as removing any justification for gender restrictions on registration.
The administration opened all combat roles to women, and officials say they believe expanding the registration system is a “logical next step,” ensuring “gender equality” in forcing the public to register for potential conscription in future wars.
Though there is some call from some in Congress to do away with the Selective Service system entirely as an unused relic of the past, there appears to be considerable support for keeping it in place despite its practical uselessness, simply on the grounds that it doesn’t cost that much.
The Selective Service system was eliminated by President Ford in 1975, two years after the last conscription lottery. President Carter brought the system back in 1980 as part of a show of hostility toward the Soviet Union over the invasion of Afghanistan. The system has remained in place ever since, even though the Soviet occupation ended, the Soviet Union fell, and the US has been occupying Afghanistan themselves for the last 15 years.