Air Force Secretary Weighs in on Women and the Selective Service Law

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By Debbie Gregory.

Last December, the Defense Department decided to open all remaining gender-segregated combat jobs — about 225,000 — to female troops.

Selective Service law as it is currently written now refers specifically to “male persons” in stating who must register and who would be drafted. For women to be required to register with Selective Service, Congress would have to amend the law.

For Air Force Secretary Deborah James, there should be no limit to equality in the armed forces, even when it comes to the draft.

James, the Air Force’s 23rd secretary, stated “Very recently, we brought down all remaining gender barriers to all roles in the armed forces. We have equality in armed forces… so it is time for young women to register in the database.”

The U.S. came close to drafting women during World War II, when there was a shortage of military nurses. However, there was a surge of volunteerism and a draft of women nurses was not needed.

In recent years, the Pentagon has worked to fully integrate women into front-line and special combat roles, from which they were previously barred.

In 2014, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said, “As long as they qualify and meet the standards, women will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they could not before.”

The next challenge James faces is retention, on she says can be met by developing recruits, inspiring them, and creating a culture of “dignity and respect for all.”

The Air Force needs to continue its fight against sexual assault, she said, and ensure proper pay and benefits that are comparable to those offered in the civilian labor force.

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