Senators on the Armed Services Committee recently approved a revision to military draft laws that would require women to register for the Selective Service System (SSS).
Proponents of the measure, which was included as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), see it as a matter of gender equality. This argument misses the point: Congress should be focused on abolishing the draft entirely, not expanding it.
As laid out in a coalition letter we supported to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, this legislation “does not represent a move forward for women; it represents a move backward, imposing on young women a burden that young men have had to bear unjustly for decades – a burden that no young person should have to bear at all.”
Congress should be focused on abolishing the draft entirely, not expanding it.
For Quakers and all those who hold peace and non-violence as core values, the SSS poses an agonizing dilemma. To register can mean compromising your sincerely held beliefs. To not register can mean losing out on student financial aid, federal employment, and in some cases, citizenship.
And as we’ve written before, the argument to abolish the SSS goes beyond the philosophical. It’s estimated that the SSS has cost more than $800 million to administer over the last 35 years, and politicians and officials from across the ideological spectrum have argued that it provides no national security benefit.
In fact, Dr. Bernard Rostker, former director of the Selective Service System, described it as “less than useless” in accomplishing its stated purpose.
Simply put, the SSS is impractical and immoral. Expanding it to include women does not resolve its central flaw. Rather than force more of the American population to make this difficult choice, the system itself should be abolished. Fortunately, Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-4) and Sen. Ron Wyden (OR) have introduced legislation to do exactly that. The Selective Service Repeal Act would abolish registration for the military draft.
Lawmakers must hear this truth from their constituents before it’s too late. Write Congress now and urge your lawmakers to ensure that no provision to expand registration with the SSS gets included in the final NDAA.