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Posted on Sep 11, 2022 Print this Article

Revised Senate Committee “Draft Our Daughters” Language in Annual Defense Bill (NDAA) Is Still Unacceptable

If the Conference Report for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2023 includes Senate “Draft Our Daughters” legislation, the entire bill must be rejected.

The case for registering women with Selective Service for a possible future draft, on the same involuntary basis as men, never has been made.  Nevertheless, in July the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) voted again for “Draft Our Daughters” legislation behind closed doors, disregarding a forceful letter from twelve Republican senators who urged opposition. 

For the following reasons, this legislation is anti-women, anti-military, and unacceptable:

A.  Unequal Obligations in the Name of “Equity”

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2023 would “modernize” the Military Selective Service Act (MSSA) by using sex-neutral “Draft Our Daughters” language in the law.  (Sections 521-522, pp. 185-193) 

This change would require registration of all 18 to 26-year-old men and women by replacing phrases like “male citizen” and “male person” with sex-neutral phrases like “citizen” and “person.”  

  • As Campbell University Professor of Law emeritus William A.  Woodruff explained in this detailed analysis, if Selective Service called up young women and men in roughly equal numbers for purposes of equity, the administrative burden of finding the theoretical one-in-four women who might be qualified would make it more difficult to find qualified men who can be trained to mobilize quickly. 
  • In the Army and Marine Corps, the largest communities are infantry.  A sex-neutral call-up that ignores unchanging physical differences between men and women would jam the induction system during a time of catastrophic national emergency.  
  • This would create a political crisis and a paralyzing administrative overload that would weaken our armed forces at the worst possible time. 

1.  The Purpose of Selective Service Registration

The Selective Service system exists as a low-cost insurance policy that backs up the All-Volunteer Force (AVF).  Its purpose is not to advance “equity” between the sexes.  The purpose of Selective Service centers on national security, not “men’s” or “women’s rights.”

  • Congress and the Supreme Court have affirmed the historic purpose of conscription: rapidly replacing casualties fallen in battleto fight during a nation-threatening war; the purpose is not to induct support personnel with special skills, such as medical or cyber.
  • Today – no less than when the Supreme Court issued its landmark Rostker v. Goldberg decision (1981) – women and men are not “similarly situated” insofar as physical strength and endurance required to succeed in the deadly environment of the battlefield. 
  • Some exceptional women may be able to meet minimal standards, but extensive research has shown that most women cannot meet combat arms standards while most men can.  There is no justification for ordering all draft age women to register.

2.  Women Are Not Physical Equals of Men in the Combat Arms

According to three years of scientific research done by the Marine Corps, major sex-related differences exist between men and women in physical strength, speed, and endurance.

  • As noted in this four-page Research Summary, field tests found that units composed of average-ability men outperformed mixed-sex teams with highly qualified women in 69% of evaluated tasks simulating close combat, including hiking under heavy loads.
  • USMC research also found that servicewomen were twice as likely to be injured and suffer serious health problems such as infertility and higher risks of suicide.  Female attritionrates in combat arms units have been twice those of men.
  • Recent experience with the revised six-event Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) prove that these realities have not changed.  In 2018, Army officials repeatedly promised that the new ACFT would be a “gender-neutral” replacement for the longstanding Physical Fitness Test (PFT), which allowed for physical differences.  However, initial trials reported an 84% failure rate among female trainees and 30%among the men.
  • The Army attempted several adjustments in test requirements and scoring systems, but in March 2022, officials abandoned promises to make the ACFT sex-neutral.  RAND data showed that only 52% of the women could pass the test, compared to 92% of the men.  

Involuntary conscription of women would make combat arms units less strong, less fast, more vulnerable to debilitating injuries, less ready for deployment on short notice, and less accurate with offensive weapons during combat operations.  

B.  No Justification for Changing the Purpose of Selective Service

The congressionally established National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, which spent $45 million over three years, called for women to register with Selective Service for a possible future draft because “the time is right.”  (p. 122, Final Report)  This vacuous, unsupported recommendation ignored inconvenient facts.                           

The Commission also failed to make a plausible argument for shifting the purpose of Selective Service away from combat replacement requirements – an obvious step toward mandatory, government-directed “national service.”  (p. 113, Final Report) Section 521 of the Senate draft version of the NDAA for 2023 follows this recommendation in a slightly less obvious way.

1.      What Does Time of War Mean? 

Subsection (b) of Section 1 (50 U.S.C. 3801) would be amended to read:

“(b) The Congress declares that the security of the Nation requires that adequate military strength be achieved and maintained by ensuring a requisite number of personnel with the necessary capabilities to meet the diverse mobilization needs of the Department of Defense during a time of war.” (Emphasis added throughout)

The Senate draft language also uses the phrase “during a time of war instead of last year’s Reed Amendment that read “. . . during a national emergency.”  Why the change?  

  • The reference to “a time of war” is nebulous and unclear.  Does it mean a declaration of war, which hasn’t happened since World War II, or the 20-year “time of war” that ended in Afghanistan in 2021?  Either interpretation would have the same effect.
  • The proposed “softer” language addressing the purpose of the Selective Service Act (SSA) is not as aggressive as the House version of the NDAA for 2022, but it is a "blank check" and no more acceptable than either version of the bill proposed last year.
  • An amendment sponsored by Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (which did not come up in the current House) would have enacted specific language to change the purpose of the SSA by authorizing it to meet “. . . mobilization needs of the Department of Defense during a national emergency and not solely to provide combat replacements.”

Chairman Reed’s 2021 version of Draft Our Daughters was less specific than Houlahan’s measure, but it would have had the same effect.  Reed’s vague language in this year’s bill does not disguise an attempt to impose on all young Americans obligations to perform government-directed “national service” for less than compelling reasons. 

2.      Slightly Revised Language Still Unacceptable

The only justifiable reason for Selective Service registration or a possible draft is to mobilize quickly to provide combat replacements during a catastrophic national emergency when troops are dying on the battlefield.  This purpose of Selective Service was affirmed by the Senate and upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court in the landmark1981 Rostker v. Goldberg ruling.

  • The “modernized” language in the Senate NDAA for 2023 could authorize call-ups for any purpose deemed “necessary” by the Department of Defense, including “peace wars” of dubious value to American interests, or social causes such asclimate change.”
  • America appreciates and needs young volunteers for military or civilian service, but federal bureaucrats should not be empowered to commandeer the lives of young men and women for Big Government-directed National Service. 

3.      Misleading Restatement of the Obvious

Section 522 of the Senate defense bill (p. 193) would amend Section 9 of the MSSA to prohibit induction under the MSSA without express authorization: “(i) No person shall be inducted for training and service in the Armed Forces under this title unless Congress first passes and there is enacted a law expressly authorizing such induction into service.” (Emphasis added)

To state the obvious, there is no existing authority to draft anyone.  The purpose of Section 522 is unclear, except to give false confidence to gullible lawmakers who want to believe that a vote for the bill would not really be a vote to Draft Our Daughters.  

Enactment of the Senate bill would be a major incremental step in the march to impose both Selective Service and National Service obligations on all young people, without good cause.

4.      “Draft Our Daughters” Would Harm Women, Not Help Them

Opportunities are wide-open for women in the All-Volunteer Force (AVF), but there is no evidence that military or civilian women want to be forced into the combat arms on the same involuntary basis as men.

  • We know from historic experience that thousands of civilian and military women have volunteered to serve during a time of national emergency.  It is an affront to women to suggest that they would not do so again. 
  • Involuntary “Draft Our Daughters” conscription would impose greater burdens on women than men – not just in terms of injuries and serious health problems, but also disproportionate risks of suicide and sexual assault.
  • According to the Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Office (SAPRO), reports of military sexual assault continue to soar.  In the past year, FY 2021, actual cases filed (not estimates) soared 13%, and actual cases filed since FY 2012 increased by 146%
  • Extreme transgender mandates in the “woke” military also increase women’s concerns about sexual privacy and women-only athletic teams at military schools and academies. 

Supporters of Draft Our Daughters have yet to make the case for unprecedented legislation that would harm women and weaken our military at the worst possible time.  Nor have they made the case for expanding Selective Service to include a draft for less than compelling reasons.

“Draft Our Daughters” legislation is an unnecessary “blank check” that Congress must not sign.

September 2022

* * * * * *

Prepared by the Center for Military Readiness, an independent public policy organization that reports on and analyzes military/social issues.  More information is at www.cmrlink.org.

Posted on Sep 11, 2022 Print this Article