Defense

GOP senators fight female draft in defense bill

A group of 17 Republican senators is urging leaders of the Armed Services committees to take language out of a defense policy bill that would require women to register for the draft.

“We should not hinder the brave men and women of our armed forces by entrapping them in unnecessary cultural issues,” the senators wrote to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate committees. “Our all-volunteer military is the best military the world has ever seen, and women who wish to serve in this military are free to do so.”

The letter was spearheaded by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who reiterated his criticism that the provision puts “culture wars” into the defense bill.

“Republicans and Democrats should be able to agree that taking care of national security is more important than running up the score in unnecessary and divisive culture wars,” Sasse said in a statement accompanying the letter’s release Monday.

“Rather than reflexively jumping into a heated debate about drafting our nation’s mothers, sisters and daughters, we should consider the fact that the greatest fighting force in history our Armed Forces is an all-volunteer fighting force and no one is urging Congress to change that.”

The letter comes as Senate and House conferees are working to reconcile each chamber’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act.

The Senate-passed version would require women to register for the draft for the first time. An effort to remove the provision with an amendment on the Senate floor has gone nowhere.

The House-passed version, meanwhile, would direct a study of the draft registration system, officially called the Selective Service System.

In their letter, the senators call for an independent commission to study the Selective Service System.

“We believe it is better to refrain from this expansion and to instead, task an independent commission to study the purpose and utility of the Selective Service System, specifically determining whether the current system is unneeded, if it is sufficient, or if it needs an expanded pool of potential draftees,” they wrote.

Whether women should register has been an issue since Defense Secretary Ash Carter opened all combat jobs to women late last year.

The issue has divided lawmakers from both parties, with some saying there’s no reason women shouldn’t register, others saying they should continue to be exempt and others saying the draft should be abolished altogether.

In addition to Sasse, the letter was signed by Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch (Utah), John Thune (S.D.), Pat Roberts (Kan.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), John Boozman (Ark.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Steve Daines (Mont.), John Hoeven (N.D.), James Lankford (Okla.), Mike Lee (Utah), Jerry Moran (Kan.), David Perdue (Ga.), James Risch (Idaho), Tim Scott (S.C.) and Roger Wicker (Miss.).

Tags James Inhofe Jerry Moran John Boozman John Hoeven John Thune Johnny Isakson Mike Lee Orrin Hatch Pat Roberts Roger Wicker Ted Cruz Tim Scott
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