1973 seems like ages ago. Gas was 38 cents. “All in the Family” was the top TV show. “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” was the No. 1 song. A first-class stamp was a whopping eight cents.

That’s also the last time America used our military draft.

Despite this huge gap of inaction, the United States continues to shell out tens of millions of dollars each year to keep alive this outdated system.

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Why is it necessary to spend $26 million a year on a program that hasn’t been used for almost half a century? In short – It’s not. In Washington, it’s too easy to keep doing what has always been done without reexamining the purpose or need. That needs to change.

For more than a century, the United States has maintained a nationwide system for drafting men into the military and requires most males between the ages of 18 and 26 to register. Men who fail to register can face criminal penalties, loss of eligibility for employment opportunities and education benefits, and the denial of security clearances.

Over its long history, though, it has rarely been used. Most recently, the system was placed in deep standby between 1975 and 1980, after President Gerald Ford suspended the registration requirement.

The median American age is around 38 years old, meaning half of all U.S. citizens were not even alive the last time it was utilized. Our military has come a long way since then, and our all-volunteer force is currently the most professional, capable, and educated in history. We have 1.4 million active-duty members in our ranks along with more than 850,000 reserve and National Guard members.

This high-powered and skillful military makes our draft system unneeded in the instance we go to war and, even if we did, a new registration system could easily be stood up with today’s technology. But that hasn’t stopped certain members of Congress from pushing to not only continue to prop up an unused system, but to expand the Selective Service to include women not because there is a need, but under the guise of “equality.”

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During a recent House Armed Services Committee markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022, an amendment mandating Selective Service registration for females was offered and debated.

I emphatically argued and voted against the inclusion for several reasons. As described above, the draft is obsolete and archaic. If there was a national emergency, I am confident both men and women would step forward to defend our nation, allowing our defense dollars to be redirected away from the draft and better utilized elsewhere.

Also, using women as a chess piece in a political “equality” argument is not only misguided but is insulting to our female population. Since the draft was last used in the 1970s, women have expanded their reach by impacting our nation in multiple ways, including as doctors, lawyers, engineers, and, yes, as valuable members of our military. In fact, females comprise 17 percent of our current fighting force — voluntarily — and will continue to serve admirably. Our nation needs them. 

Women are valuable, precious, appreciated, and — most importantly — already equal. Claiming the inclusion of women in the draft would prove “equality” is ridiculous.

Forcing women to register for the draft is also not needed. According to the United States Selective Service System, there are currently 17 million males between the ages of 18 to 25, and 60 million males aged 18 to 49. Given these overwhelming numbers, there is literally zero reason to force women onto the battlefield.

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The American people largely agree. According to a recent survey, less than half of Americans support making women register for the draft with support dropping nearly 20 percent over the past five years alone.

Rather than using women to advance a “woke” cause, we should do away with the Selective Service altogether or put it on ice. That’s why I introduced legislation in the House to do just that. Through this path, our nation can spend our defense dollars building up our current all-volunteer force so they can address the threats from China, Russia, and our other adversaries.

We must focus on the needs of today, not handcuffing our nation (and conscripting our daughters) to the outdated systems of the past.

Hartzler represents Missouri’s 4th District and is a member of the Armed Services Committee.