By Patricia Zengerle
The top U.S. Marine Corps and Army generals said on Tuesday that women should be required to register for the military draft, along with men, as the armed forces move toward integrating them fully into combat positions.
“I think that all eligible and qualified men and women should register for the draft,” General Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on women in combat.
General Mark Milley, the Army chief of staff, also backed registration for women, although two other witnesses, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Acting Army Secretary Patrick Murphy, said only that there should be a discussion of legislation requiring women to register for the Selective Service.
It was the first time Neller and Milley had publicly backed requiring women to register for the draft. They spoke in response to a question from Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, who said she also believes women should register.
The White House said the comments did not reflect a policy change. “I don’t know how seriously that is being considered,” press secretary Josh Earnest said.
The U.S. military has been an all-volunteer force since the 1970s, but young men must register in case the draft is reactivated.
PROCESS WILL TAKE YEARS
The military leaders said it would take years for women to be fully integrated into combat units, although they generally voiced strong support for the plan to skeptical committee members.
Milley estimated full integration would take “no less than one to three years of deliberate effort.”