Lt. Gen. (Ret.) William G. Boykin is Executive Vice President of Family Research Council. Mary Beth Waddell is FRC's Director of Federal Affairs for Family and Religious Liberty. This article appeared in The Washington Examiner on September 20, 2021.
The Biden administration’s disastrous retreat from Afghanistan has raised fresh concerns about this administration’s military leadership. Amid the chaos and mere hours before 13 U.S. service members were killed in a bomb attack at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, the Army’s top enlisted general was tweeting about diversity and quotas in celebration of “Women’s Equality Day.”
The House will vote this week on the National Defense Authorization Act, which has sections that support this insertion of a liberal social agenda. One example of this is a proposal requiring women to register for the draft, just as men are required to do once they reach 18 years of age. The Senate Armed Services Committee in July approved an amendment to the NDAA for fiscal year 2022 that did just that by removing any reference to the word "male" from current law. The House Armed Services Committee agreed to a similar amendment earlier this month.
The NDAA is an annual bill that authorizes military funding and sets the guidelines and priorities for defense policy, a “must-pass” bill. Proponents of requiring women to register for the draft are calculating that their proposal stands a better shot of becoming law if it is tied to essential legislation.
The Family Research Council honors and values the many women who have served and currently serve our country with great distinction. However, we find no convincing reason to require women to register for the draft and plenty of reasons not to draft them. It is unnecessary and would be detrimental to military readiness, lethality, and unit cohesion. This change is not about enhancing our military, nor is it about equality, but rather, it is about advancing a social agenda through our military.
First, it is considerably more dangerous for women in combat. There are those who like to ignore the reality of the biological differences between men and women; however, studies show that fewer women than men can meet the physical demands of the military positions a draft is generally used to fill, which has historically been combat arms, with infantry receiving the bulk of the draftees. Women have much higher attrition and injury rates and can have nondeployable rates as high as three times that of their male peers when placed in these roles. While some women can successfully meet these demands, the randomness and unique nature of the draft make it nearly impossible to ensure that female draftees adequately fall into that category.
Second, drafting women would be detrimental to military lethality, readiness, and unit cohesion. Studies have shown that all-male infantry units perform better than co-ed infantry units. The Marine Corps established the Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force and found that in tasks resembling requirements of infantry, armor, and artillery units, all-male teams outperformed co-ed units in 69% of ground combat tasks. The task force also found that the biological differences in men and women negatively affected co-ed units’ speed and effectiveness in simulated battle tasks, including marching under heavy loads, casualty evacuations, and marksmanship. Again, it is these front-line infantry units that need additional support from a draft, and we should not be forcing conscripted women into them.
Third, female conscription is unnecessary because there are sufficient men to fulfill draft requirements. If a major conflict were to arise and the United States needed to more than double our military to 5 million, that would only require an additional 1.4% of the male population to serve.
Furthermore, if women were required to register for the draft, it would create additional logistical considerations and potential problems for the military. Women eligible for the draft will be of childbearing age and could become pregnant. Following the Gulf War and the large-scale deployment of military servicewomen, some deploying units reported that nondeployable rates for pregnancy among women were as much as 30% of those assigned. This could create a significant problem for readiness and lethality when the goal of the draft is to increase the size of the military in wartime and to replace a depleting front line.
With the Republicans split — eight of the Republican SASC members and four of the Republican HASC members supported the amendment — there may not be a big push to remove the registration requirement from the NDAA, but outreach from constituents could tip the scales. We encourage everyone to reach out to their senators and representative to express their views on this issue.
Women already serve honorably in the military and are free to volunteer for just about any post they desire. Women have unique skills and perspectives that are invaluable to our military. They should be welcomed and respected, as they are just as valuable as their male counterparts. But there is simply no military or national security reason to require women to register for the draft. Most people agree: Randomly selected women should not be required to enlist ahead of able-bodied men.