WASHINGTON – As the Senate struggles to finalize a major annual defense measure, there is a bipartisan push to include a requirement that all young Americans – including women – register for conscription for the first time military.
The $ 777.9 billion measure, the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, would also allocate millions of dollars to cleaning up toxic chemicals from bases and expanding a health study of the effects of chemicals. on people.
Some lawmakers leading the effort to allow all Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 to be included for registration with the Selective Service System are Reps Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) And Michael Waltz ( R-Fla.), As well as Sen Joni Ernst, (R-Iowa), and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (DR.I.).
“Simply put, as the selective service system is currently written, it is unconstitutional and discriminatory on the basis of gender,” Houlahan said in a statement.
The current law refers to the registration of “men” and immigrants with and without papers are included.
The army is now entirely voluntary and there has been no conscription since the Vietnam War, but the registration system is maintained.
The White House has also agreed with lawmakers on the selective service update.
“The administration supports Section 513 and the registration requirement for all citizens, which further ensures a military selective system that is fair and equitable,” according to the Biden administration, referring to the section of the draft of law dealing with the requirement.
However, the White House has also said it opposes the removal of “registration incentives” as they are necessary “to achieve a fair system that can be effectively implemented.” When men sign up for a selective service, they remain eligible for federal benefits such as student aid, loans, and job training programs.
Houlahan is a veteran herself and introduced the amendment from the House side. The House Armed Services Committee supported Amendment 35-24.
Houlahan also included 12 weeks maternity and paternity leave for primary and secondary caregivers in the NDAA, shorthand for massive defense legislation.
The House passed its version of NDAA in September, with a vote of 316-113. The Senate has yet to schedule a vote and continues to haggle over the details, but the draft provision is included in its version.
Ernst, the first female veteran senator, spoke out in favor of including women in the selective service.
“We are now competing in the combat arms space, and I think it’s important that we all serve to the best of our ability,” she told Axios.
Congress attempted to update the selective service requirement in the FY2017 NDAA, but instead asked an 11-member National Commission on Military, National and Public Service to conduct a study to determine whether women should be included in the selective service.
The report’s findings were released in 2020, with the recommendation to include women.
The selective service system currently includes men between the ages of 18 and 25, which was equivalent to around 17 million men in 2019, according to the agency.
But not all Republicans agree with the concept.
Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri is leading at least a dozen senators calling for the provision to be removed.
In a statement, Hawley argued that it was “wrong to force our daughters, mothers, wives and sisters to wage our wars.”
“Our country is extremely grateful to the courageous women who have volunteered to serve our country with and alongside our fighting forces,” he said. “But volunteering for military service is not the same as being forced into it, and no woman should be forced to do so.”
Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Steve Daines of Montana made similar remarks and introduced a resolution with Hawley “expressing that the Senate should not pass legislation making the registration of women mandatory for the selective service system.”
Neither Rubio, Daines, or Hawley served in the military.
The NDAA also includes $ 549 million for testing and cleaning up toxic chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkylated substances, or PFAS, at military sites.
Of those clean-up funds, $ 100 million is for formerly used defense sites, $ 175 million for the Air Force, $ 174 million for the Navy, and $ 100 million for the military.
The chemicals are linked to several health problems such as thyroid problems, certain cancers, and liver damage.
Some House Armed Services Committee lawmakers who worked to include the PFAS amendments are Reps Elissa Slotkin, (D-Mich.), Jackie Speier, (D-Calif.), John Garamendi, (D-Calif.), Michael Turner , (R-Ohio), Jack Bergman, (R-Mich.) And Bill Posey (R-Fla.).
These provisions require the Department of Defense to report the status of clean-up at 50 PFAS sites across the country.
They are also demanding that the agency publicly announce the results of drinking water and groundwater tests for chemicals at nearby military sites, and prevent the DOD from purchasing materials made from those chemicals.
On the Senate side, Democratic Senators Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Kirsten Gillibrand of New Hampshire and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut have included in NDAA language to set deadlines for DOD to test chemicals at all military sites and require the agency to provide reports. on the sanitation of PFAS at these sites.
“This amendment will ensure greater transparency and accountability in addressing and cleaning up PFAS, which our communities have long been calling for,” Shaheen said in a statement.
Shaheen also pushed to include $ 15 million in the pursuit of a PFAS health impact report that she first started in FY 2018 NDAA.