A federal district court in Texas ruled that an all-male draft was unconstitutional. This decision comes during a time when there is extreme controversy surrounding who should be allowed to serve in the military, namely people who identify as transgender.
The district court ruling puts pressure on Congress to expand the draft and make military service more equitable or eliminate the Selective Service System all together.
It has been consistently proven that women can function at similar levels in nearly all roles as men. Therefore, women should be eligible for the draft and so should everyone else who meets the physical and mental health requirements.
This case has overturned Rostker v. Goldberg, which ruled in 1981 that Congress had a reasonable basis to exclude women from the draft because combat positions were off-limits to women at the time.
However, more than four decades later in 2015, the Department of Defense lifted all gender-based restrictions and allowed women to serve in combat positions on and off the front lines. Given that women’s opportunities in the military have expanded dramatically since 1981, there is no longer a reasonable basis to exclude women from being eligible from the draft.
This decision also has repercussions for college students. Male students applying for federal aid to pay for college are most affected by Selective Service. FAFSA requires all males to register through the Selective Service System in order to receive any kind of aid.
The court decision did not go into this aspect of the draft, but it could potentially mean women would be held to meet the same draft requirements as men when applying for student aid.
Furthermore, the relevancy and necessity of the Selective Service System and the draft itself are becoming more questionable and should be eliminated.
Former President Richard Nixon ended the draft in 1973 in an effort to de-escalate the raging war in Vietnam that had already taken the lives of many young men. In response to Russian escalation of the Cold War, former President Jimmy Carter instated the Selective Service System in 1980 to identify a population of young men to be drafted in case of a national emergency.
Still, the likelihood of the Selective Service System actually being used to implement a draft is very low.
The U.S. military benefits greatly from an all-volunteer military because it is composed of people who want to be there, and has greater career opportunities attached to it, which allows someone to be in the Army Reserve while still pursuing their own career within or outside the U.S. military.
Additionally, the Selective Service was intended to only be used in the case of a national emergency, but President Trump’s recent declaration of a national emergency at the southern border has demonstrated the requirements for a national emergency are broad and could be abused to enact the draft.
The powers given to the president in Article II of the Constitution as commander-in-chief grant him control of the military. However, it is the duty of Congress to raise and support armies.
Therefore, it is unlikely that the president would unilaterally enact a draft despite the fact that war powers have drastically shifted to the executive branch in recent years. Even though conscription is within the power of Congress, there’s a small chance they would enact a draft given its sheer political unpopularity.
Realistically, this court decision will probably be appealed by the government and will not go into force for perhaps a few years. An 11-member commission appointed by Congress is tasked with studying the issue and is due to report its findings next year.
If the Selective Service System is to be preserved, then expanding it to include women would be a historic step in symbolizing that one should be able to serve their country regardless of gender, past or present.
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