Selective Service Eyes Women's Draft
By Eric Rosenberg
The chief of the Selective Service System has proposed
registering women for the military draft and requiring that young Americans regularly inform the government about whether
they have training in niche specialties needed in the armed services.
The proposal, which the agency's acting Director Lewis
Brodsky presented to senior Pentagon officials just before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, also seeks to extend the age of draft registration to 34 years old, up from
The Selective Service System plan, obtained under the
Freedom of Information Act, highlights the extent to which agency officials have planned for an expanded military draft in
case the administration and Congress would authorize one in the future.
"In line with today's needs, the Selective Service System's
structure, programs and activities should be re-engineered toward maintaining a national inventory of American men and, for
the first time, women, ages 18 through 34, with an added focus on identifying individuals with critical skills," the agency
said in a Feb. 11, 2003, proposal presented to senior Pentagon officials.
Brodsky and Richard Flahavan, the agency's director of
public and congressional affairs, reviewed the six-page proposal with Pentagon officials responsible for personnel issues.
They included Charles Abell, principal deputy undersecretary for personnel and readiness, and William Carr, deputy undersecretary
for military personnel policy.
The agency officials acknowledged that they would have
"to market the concept" of a female draft to Congress, which ultimately would have to authorize such a step.
Dan Amon, a spokesman for the Selective Service System,
based in Arlington, Va.,
said that the Pentagon has taken no action on the proposal to expand draft registration.
"These ideas were only being floated for Department of
Defense consideration," Amon said. He described the proposal as "food for thought" for contingency planning.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jane Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Defense
Department, said the Pentagon "has not agreed to, nor even suggested, a change to Selective Service's current missions."
Nonetheless, Flahavan said the agency has begun designing
procedures for a targeted registration and draft of people with computer and language skills, in case military officials and
Congress authorize it.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard
Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, say they oppose a revival of the military draft, last used in 1973 as the American
commitment in Vietnam waned, beginning the era of the all-volunteer force.
Mandatory registration for the draft was suspended in
1975 but was resumed in 1980 by President Carter after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan.
About 13.5 million men, ages 18 to 25, currently are registered with the Selective Service.
"I don't know anyone in the executive branch of the government
who believes that it would be appropriate or necessary to reinstitute the draft," Rumsfeld said last month.
At present, the Selective Service is authorized to register
only young men and they are not required to inform the government about any professional skills. Separately, the agency has
in place a special registration system to draft health care personnel in more than 60 specialties into the military if necessary
in a crisis.
Some of the skill areas where the armed forces are facing
"critical shortages" include linguists and computer specialists, the agency said. Americans would then be required to regularly
update the agency on their skills until they reach age 35.
Individuals proficient in more than one critical skill
would list the skill in which they have the greatest degree of competency.