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Women & the draft

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Sunday, March 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Pentagon's decision to allow women in combat positions gives them the right to serve their country on equal footing with men. Now, Congress must level the playing field of responsibility by requiring women, not just men, to register with the Selective Service System.

Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the policy change in January. But because Selective Service is an independent executive branch agency, not part of the Pentagon, he couldn't — and incoming Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel can't — simply order the registration of women.

It's up to Congress to change the Military Selective Service Act by extending to women its requirement that all male U.S. citizens and permanent residents register within 30 days of their 18th birthday. It's the only way to ensure fairness and equality under the law while maintaining a sufficient pool of eligible Americans in case there's a need to resume the draft, making this a matter of national security.

It's widely believed that only a military crisis of epic proportion would trigger resumption of the draft. But in the current environment of hostile, nuclear-armed foreign nations and fanatically murderous, America-hating terrorists, such a crisis could arise at any time — and Selective Service must be ready.

Congress must ensure that America can count on its young men and women in the face of such a national-security threat — and make that change before a crisis that would dictate renewed conscription occurs.

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