- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The top officers in the Army and Marine Corps testified Tuesday that women should now be required to register for a potential military draft, as men now must at 18, because the Pentagon has opened all military combat roles to female service members.

Gen. Mark A. Milley, chief of staff of the Army, and Gen. Robert B. Neller, the Marine Corps commandant, both said they supported the move during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday.

“It’s my personal view that based on this lifting of restrictions … that every American who’s physically qualified should register for the draft,” Gen. Neller in response to questions from Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, who said that she also is in favor of the move.

Gen. Milley added that he believes “all eligible and qualified men and women should register for the draft.”

It is the first time the Defense Department has commented on the subject. Previously, defense officials had said the issue would need to be more carefully researched and considered before a decision could be made.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, an outspoken advocate for opening combat roles to women, also testified at the hearing and said the issue “needs to be looked at as part of a national debate, given the changed circumstances,” CNN reported.

The Supreme Court in 1981 upheld Congress’ decision to exempt women from registering for selective service because women were barred from combat.

“The existence of combat restrictions clearly indicates the basis for Congress’ decision to exempt women from registration,” Justice William Rehnquist wrote in the decision.

Congress would have to change the law for anyone — male or female — to be drafted.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced in December that all military combat roles would be open to women in 2016, saying no exemptions would be granted.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and the committee chairman, raised concerns about the speed of the decision to put women in all combat roles.

“I am concerned that the department has gone about things backward,” he said. “This consequential decision was made and mandated before the military services could study its implications, and before any implementation plans were devised to address the serious challenges raised in studies.”

He criticized Mr. Mabus for overlooking the findings of a massive Marine report that indicated on average mixed-sex units tend to have lower performance levels in battlefield situations. The report also found that on average women are injured more frequently and shoot less accurately.

Mr. Mabus argued that the reports findings captured the average results, and that it does not reflect the exceptional female soldiers that do meet the standards required to serve in such combat roles.

Sen. Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican and the committee’s only female veteran — said she fully supported the changes “as long as standards are not lowered” to boost the number of women in combat jobs or force them to meet quotas.

“We need to ensure we don’t set up men or women for failure,” she said. “It’s clear we need to ensure that we’re taking into account the impact this could have on women’s health.”

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