Report to Congress on Legislation Requiring Women Register for the Draft

November 9, 2021 9:50 AM

The following is the Nov. 8, 2021 Congressional Research Service In Focus report, FY2022 NDAA: Selective Service and Draft Registration.

From the report

One issue of debate in the FY2022 NDAA is whether women should be required to register for the draft. This question has been the subject of legislative proposals in prior Congresses and decisions by the courts. Regarding female registration, the MNAPS Commission concluded: “the time is right to extend Selective Service System registration to include men and women, between the ages of 18 and 26. This is a necessary and fair step, making it possible to draw on the talent of a unified Nation in a time of national emergency.” Similar provisions in the House-passed and Senate-introduced bills (Sections 513 and 511, respectively) would expand SSS registration requirements to women. The Biden Administration and some women’s and men’s advocacy groups support expanding registration requirements based on equity arguments. Other advocacy groups are opposed to requiring women to register for the draft.

Other provisions common to both bills would (1) require the SSS to conduct periodic mobilization exercises and keep the public informed about these exercises and (2) require female representation on local selection boards. The President has the authority under the MSSA to appoint membership to local selection boards that would be mobilized in the event of a draft. Current law requires the President ensure local board membership is to “maximum extent practicable […] proportionately representative of the race and national origin of those registrants within its jurisdiction.” These provisions would expand representation by sex.

Currently, those who are required to register and fail to do so by their 26th birthday may be subject to penalties, unless they are able to provide evidence that they did not knowingly or willfully fail to register. Section 513(f) of the House bill would provide a 30-day window following notification of failure to register for an individual to complete the registration requirement, regardless of the person’s age. The Biden Administration issued a statement opposing this provision due to concerns that it would remove incentives for registration. The Senate-introduced bill has no similar provision. Section 513 of the S. 2792 would require the SSS to review processes for adjudicating denial of benefits for those who fail to register. Section 512 of the bill would require an SSS review of exemptions from registration, training, and deferments.

A provision in the Senate-introduced bill, with no House counterpart, would create a senior civilian position within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Executive Agent for National Mobilization. This individual would be responsible for “developing, managing, and coordinating policy and plans” for national mobilization and informing the SSS and Congress of plans and resource needs.

Other proposals in the 117th Congress would repeal the MSSA and disestablish the SSS (e.g., H.R. 2509 and S. 1139), or allow women to elect to register for the draft (H.R. 5392). The FY2022 NDAA does not include these proposals.

Download the document here.

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