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Top GOP senator on Armed Services Committee opposes proposed changes to military draft registration and having women drafted

Spencer Platt/Getty Images via CNN Newsource

Originally Published: 19 JUN 24 17:20 ET

By Ted Barrett, CNN

(CNN) — The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee strongly opposes making changes to the Selective Service System that would allow men to be automatically registered for the draft when they turn 18, casting doubt the proposal could become law even though the Democratic chairman of the panel said the idea has merit and it was approved overwhelmingly by the GOP-led House Armed Services Committee.

“It just seems to me right now we don’t need to cloud the NDAA with something that’s not likely to happen in the next several years. We are not going to need a draft anytime soon,” Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi told CNN, while arguing Washington shouldn’t be distracted right now from its most important responsibility, which is standing up to urgent threats from international foes.

At issue is a proposal championed by Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, a Democrat from Pennsylvania and veteran of the Air Force, who pushed to add to the House’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act language requiring men to be automatically registered for the draft based on existing federal records instead of registering themselves when they turn 18. Doing so could increase compliance and save money that is now used for outreach efforts to encourage men to register voluntarily.

The House NDAA passed out of committee on a broad 57-1 vote. It passed the full House on a more party line 217-199 vote.

Sen. Jack Reed, a Democrat of Rhode Island, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was only “vaguely aware” of the House proposal but said it might be worth doing.

“I think that is something we have to look at,” he said. “Presumably, if there is some data to show that it’s more efficient way to do it I don’t see a problem with it.”

Reed added: “I think that’s in the area that is subject to reasonable debate, which is, is it more efficient? Is it more effective? Will it help us mobilize quickly?  Will it keep our records up to date better?”

Wicker has recently proposed a massive increase in defense spending starting next year in order to ensure the military is on its best footing. He said now is one of the most dangerous times in US history, with conflicts in Europe and the Middle East and as threats loom from Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

“We ought to concentrate on the crisis.  And that is that we are not ready to deter this axis of aggressors from making a foolish mistake with regards to our resolve,” Wicker said.  “We need to concentrate on spending the necessary funds to get us to where we need to be.  And there is no need to be talking about a draft right now.”

An accompanying issue is whether to require women to register for the draft.  The version of the NDAA that passed out of the Senate Armed Services Committee last week amends the Military Selective Service Act requiring women to register for Selective Service.

Despite being in the Senate bill, Reed suggested that because of GOP opposition to drafting women, it might not survive when a final version of the bill is negotiated between the GOP-controlled House and Democratic-led Senate.

“That has been a real sore point, that I can’t understand. We have had amendments that would have required women to register and we can’t get any real traction on the other side. We are going to try to do it. It makes sense. The military now is a mixed force,” he said.

Wicker gave a one word answer – “no” – when asked about adding having women register. But he has spoken out about it in the past.

“I applaud the women who volunteer to serve in the military and who sacrifice every day for our country’s freedom, but to compel their service by law is wrong,” Wicker said in 2021 when a similar debate took place. “I along with millions of other Americans cannot support the idea that our daughters and granddaughters would be forced to fight in our next military conflict against their will.”

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