On the heels of an announcement that the Pentagon will lift the ban on women in military combat roles, some have raised a controversial question: What does this mean for the Selective Service System?  Many are wondering if the decision will lead to women being required to register for the draft.  U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R), who serves on the Armed Services Committee, said in a news conference with reporters Thursday that he was confident the military would continue to be volunteer-based.

Roy Blunt

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D), who also serves on the Armed Services Committee, said because the military isn’t currently drafting soldiers, changing the Selective Service System isn’t necessary at this time.  Click to hear KMZU’s Chelsea Wade talk with Sen. McCaskill:

Claire McCaskill

A Supreme Court decision (Rostker v. Goldberg) in 1981 upheld the policy that limited the military draft to men.  Judge William Rehnquist stated that women were excluded from having to register for the Selective Service System, because “Congress specifically determined that in wartime, the primary purpose of a draft would be to provide combat troops and since women were excluded from combat, Congress concluded that they would not be needed in the event of a draft.”  He added, “Men and women, because of combat restrictions on women, are simply not similarly situated for purposes of a draft or registration for a draft.”

Currently, men between the ages of 18 and 25 must sign up for the draft.  If more troops are needed, Congress and the president make the decision to reinstate the draft.

According to U.S. law, if there are changes in policy regarding where women can serve in the military, the Pentagon must provide a “detailed analysis of the legal implication of the proposed change with respect to the constitutionality of the application of the Military Selective Service Act … to males only.”

In short, with women now being allowed to serve in combat roles, females between the ages of 18 and 25 could, in theory, be required to register for the draft.