WASHINGTON — The Obama administration declared its support yesterday for requiring women to register for the military draft, a symbolic but significant shift that reflects the U.S. military’s evolution from a male-dominated force to one seeking to incorporate women at all levels.
President Obama has been considering whether to adopt the position since last December, when Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered the military to open all jobs to women, including the most arduous combat posts. Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council, said Obama believes women have “proven their mettle,” including in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“As old barriers for military service are being removed, the administration supports — as a logical next step — women registering for the Selective Service,” Price said, using the formal name for the military draft.
The White House emphasized that the administration remains committed to an all-volunteer military — meaning women, like men, wouldn’t be forced to serve unless there were a national emergency such as a major war. Changing the policy would require an act of Congress, and there are no signs that lawmakers plan to move swiftly to alter the law.
Obama, who will leave office in less than two months, has less leverage over Congress and the broader Washington agenda than he did earlier in his presidency. Like his embrace of gay marriage in 2012, Obama’s announcement appeared aimed more at influencing the public debate about women in the military in the coming years than at forcing an immediate policy change.
The Defense Department echoed Obama’s position, first reported by USA Today. Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said that Carter believes the inclusion of women throughout the military’s echelons has strengthened the military.
“He thinks it makes sense for women to register for Selective Service, just as men must,” Cook said.
Late last year, the Pentagon ordered all military jobs opened to women, including about 220,000 jobs previously restricted to men.
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