Congress Discusses Draft Modifications amidst Struggles with Military Recruitment

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TL/DR –

US Congress is considering proposals to update the military draft, potentially expanding it to include women and automatically registering those eligible. The House recently passed a policy bill that includes proposals for automatic registration and raising the maximum age from 25 to 26, while a Senate committee approved a bill that would require women to register. However, the proposals face opposition, particularly from conservative Republicans, and are unlikely to be enacted into law.


U.S. Considers Modernizing Draft Laws Including Adding Women

Although the United States last activated a military draft over 50 years ago, Congress is currently considering proposals for updating conscription laws. One significant change could be expanding the draft to include women and automatically registering those eligible for conscription.

The draft-related bills currently circulating in the House and Senate have a slim chance of becoming law, and none would reinstate mandatory service immediately. The renewed focus on potential changes reflects lawmakers’ consideration of military readiness and recruitment challenges faced by the Pentagon in addressing global risks and conflicts.

Last week, the House passed a defense policy bill that proposes making draft registration automatic and increasing the maximum age from 25 to 26. Concurrently, a Senate committee approved a version of the Pentagon policy bill expanding the registration requirement to women. Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island, backs this proposal.

Under current law, most males aged 18 to 25 must register with the Selective Service, the agency managing the draft database. The program is designed to determine military conscription eligibility should Congress and the president reactivate the draft, last implemented in 1973 during the Vietnam War.

Failure to register can result in penalties. To ensure compliance, at least 46 states and territories automatically register men for Selective Service when obtaining a driver’s license or applying for college. In 2023, over 15 million men registered, roughly 84% of those eligible.

However, the Defense Department reports declining numbers of young Americans volunteering for military service, a continuing trend since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Recent reports show less than 1% of U.S. adults serve in active duty combat roles, a marked decrease from the numbers during the last draft era in the 1960s.

In 2020, a military expert panel suggested to Congress that incorporating women in the draft would benefit U.S. national security. Since then, Congress has frequently considered such proposals, but none have become law. However, some bipartisan support exists for women to be added to the draft, with women having been permitted to serve in all military roles since 2016.

Even Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has expressed support for an expanded role of women in the military, including the same draft requirement for men. However, this idea has been met with opposition among conservative Republicans.

Automatic registration for the draft has received less controversy. Proponents, like Representative Chrissy Houlahan, a Democrat of Pennsylvania and Air Force veteran, argue it would streamline process and lower spending. However, some have misunderstood recent congressional action as a reinstatement of the draft itself.

Cardi B, an acclaimed rapper known for sharing her political views, questioned whether the current generation of young American men is ready for combat. “You want to send these new kids to fight these wars?” Cardi B said on social media. “Good luck with that.”

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