Military draft should be about fundamental fairness

Vanessa Moss

The U.S. Senate this week is expected to debate the issue of women registering for the draft. It comes after a U.S. House committee stripped the language from a defense department funding bill.

Men ages 18-26 under current law are required to register for the draft. It must be pointed out that the draft in our country ended in 1973, but our Selective Service System continued. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced last December that all combat jobs would be open to women and that has unleashed intense debate in some circles.

Those who support women being required to register for Selective Service argue that women — just like men — should have the opportunity to demonstrate their ability serve, even in combat roles on the front lines.

Conversely, there is an argument that the issue needs more study.

“The draft itself may never be reinstated, but men are still required to register for its possible use when they turn 18,” says Kathy Frankovic, an analyst for YouGov, which queried some 2,000 people on the issue. “Americans think women should do that, too. By 50 percent to 35 percent they agree that women should also be required to register with the Selective Service System.”

As I think about this important issue of gender equality and fairness, I’m reminded of American heroes who volunteered for military service during previous wars and military conflicts.

One who comes to mind is Mildred Leonard. Leonard chose to serve her country during World War II and was one of the first black female captains in the U.S. Army, where she worked as a nurse. After her service, Leonard worked as a Detroit police officer, a teacher and, later, a counselor.

Now, I’m not suggesting that Leonard, who died in 2013 at age 93, would have supported women registering for the draft. I am suggesting, however, that women should be treated equally in our society. I argue that when given the opportunity to perform on a level playing field we fare well — and sometimes better than men.

The U.S. Air Force’s top civilian official stated recently that she supports requiring young women to register for a potential military draft.

“My opinion as an American is that we should have a Selective Service,” Air Force Secretary Deborah James on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program. “It’s an insurance policy for the United States and I think women should register, just as I think young men should register.”

That’s good enough for me.

Vanessa Moss is a candidate for Congress in the 14th district.