HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The law requires all men to register with the Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthday. The list would be used in the event the president and congress enacted a draft. If men do not register by age 26 they can not work for the federal government or receive federal student aid.
A report issued to congress this year says women should also be required to register with Selective Service.
The “Inspired To Serve” report was put together by the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service. The commission was tasked with traveling the country and talking to Americans about how to encourage service on all levels.
“Interestingly we began our public travels in Harrisburg back in January of 2018. We conducted our first series of public hearings at Harrisburg Area Community College,” said Dr. Joseph Heck, chairman, National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.
In March, the commission presented more than 160 recommendations to congress. Among them, requiring women to register with selective services within 30 days of their 18th birthday. Meaning if a draft were to happen women could be called to serve. Chairmen Heck says two things led to this recommendation.
“The first is that it is about standards. We know that right now only about 27% of American youth will qualify for military service. The other 73% are disqualified for medical conditions to include obesity mental health problems, drug abuse problems. When you have 27% of the population qualify you want to maximize the number that meet the standards in the event we need to go to a draft,” said Chairman Heck. “The second is about civic obligation. With the rights of citizenship come responsibilities and every American bears the responsibility to defend those rights when threatened.”
“For us this is not an issue of equality. This is an issue of complicity in militarism,” said Maria Santelli.
Santelli is the Executive Director of the Center on Conscience and War. The group opposes the idea of a draft.
“We believe the pathway to equality is to abolish the draft once and for all,” said Santelli.
The courts have ruled that a draft is constitutional. What is still in question is who will have to register with selective service in the future.
“Two courts have ruled the male only registration now is unconstitutional, so that now forces Congress to act,” said Santelli.
“There may come a time if Congress does not act where an injunctive relief may be issued by the courts in which Selective Service Registration may be suspended,” said Chairman Heck.
There is one recommendation in the report that the Center on Conscience and War supports, making registering with Selective Service a more active process.
“We would like to be able to provide, if not a formal ceremony, a formal certificate of registration so that they understand what it is that this registration is all about,” Chairman Heck.
“We need to talk about these things and be very open and transparent and allow people to make that discernment. Is this something in line with my values?,” said Santelli.
Over 40 states have legislation which ties registering with Selective Service to obtaining a drivers license or state identification card. If you apply for federal student aid you can also click a box to register.
“It is not just about checking a box. We want everyone who registers, male and potentially female, to understand the obligation which they are undertaking by registering with the Selective Service System,” Chairmen Heck.
Chairman Heck says the commission was scheduled to discuss its recommendations with Congress but that was delayed due to the pandemic. He anticipates the debate over including woman in the Selective Service Registration will be addressed next year.