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Senate Passes Draft Registration for Women, but Issue Still Unresolved

— Rick Jahnkow

On June 14 the U.S. Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (S. 2943) with language that would require women to begin registering with the Selective Service System for a possible future draft. The requirement would apply to women who reach their 18th birthday on or after January 1, 2018. Earlier, the House of Representatives approved a version of the same bill but without language requiring women to register. When an attempt was made in the House to add an amendment that would have totally defunded the Selective Service System, it was voted down 294-128.

The process of resolving various differences between the two bills was still ongoing as of September 1. Once a final version is agreed to, it will be sent to the president for his signature. The 2017 Federal Fiscal Year begins on October 1, 2016.

While legislative action on the draft registration issue is still uncertain for this year, it should be noted that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has officially stated her support for requiring women to register with Selective Service. A separate important factor to consider is that a very viable challenge to the constitutionality of male-only registration is still moving through the federal courts. If it succeeds--which has been made likely by the recent opening of all combat jobs to women--eventual action by Congress would be necessary if the legislature wished to continue Selective Service registration.

One barrier to starting up a draft has been the fact that a significant number of men have either not registered, or they have registered and then moved without sending their new address to Selective Service (technically a violation of federal law). If a loud promise of resistance is declared by many women, it would further complicate Selective Service’s ability to register people and conduct a future draft, and it could convince Congress that it’s time to repeal the Military Selective Service Act. [See Calling All Womyn to Oppose Mandatory Draft Registration!]

A bill that would accomplish repeal of the MSSA (H.R. 4523) was introduced with bi-partisan co-sponsorship in February 2016 but it has been stalled in a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. Senator Rand Paul announced plans to introduce a related bill, called the “Muhammad Ali Voluntary Service Act,” in the Senate.

For more information, contact: Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft, Also, see


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