Selective Service law requires male U.S. citizens and male immigrants--documented and undocumented--to register for the draft within 30 days of their 18th birthday. Failure to register disqualifies men from receiving federal student aid, federal job training or a federal job. The government can also prosecute men who don't register with a potential fine of $250,000 and up to five years in prison.
As the Pentagon integrates women into every job in the military, the necessary next step is to amend the law to require women to also register with Selective Service, ensuring any future draft will fairly affect all eligible U.S. citizens, regardless of sex. The arc of American history and the democratic experiment is to get ever closer to the ideal that "we the people" are all "created equal" enjoying the rights and responsibilities of being American. The defense of the nation is one such responsibility all should share.
Selective Service plays an important role in national security; it provides the Defense Department with a "running start" obtaining the personnel necessary to fight during a major theater war. Some argue the draft is an anachronism, saying the nation will fight any future battles with a better trained, highly-committed all-volunteer force. However, the current active and reserve Army--approximately 2 million soldiers--is 25 percent of the 8.2 million soldiers serving at the end of World War II. Notably, of all the servicemen who participated in World War II, 38.8 percent, or 6.3 million, volunteered and 61.2 percent, 11.5 million, were drafted.
Almost certainly in a major theater war, after mobilizing the Guard and Reserve, the Pentagon would ask Congress to reinstitute the draft. When that happens, the department will depend on Selective Service to rapidly mobilize personnel. According to Selective Service officials, the current system would begin supplying inductees within 193 days of activation. If the U.S. deactivates Selective Service, it would take 920 days to begin augmenting the services. Ultimately, the nation maintains the Selective Service for the same reason people buy life insurance: they buy it hoping they will never need it. When they do need it, they have missed the opportunity to buy it.
Current law prohibits American women from registering with Selective Service because they are not subject to the draft. Historically, women were not subject to the draft, first, because they were prohibited from serving in the...