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Military draft should include women, 10 retired US generals and admirals tell Supreme Court

Female Marines train for Iraq border security. (U.S. Marine Corps/Released)
February 18, 2021

A case before the Supreme Court arguing that women should be required to sign up for the military draft now has the support of 10 former U.S. military generals and admirals.

In a “friend of the court” amicus curiae brief filed Wednesday, a group of retired generals and admirals, including Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden and Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, wrote in support of the National Coalition For Men’s case challenging the constitutionality of a male-only draft. While the military doesn’t currently use a draft system, only men between the ages of 18 and 26 are required to register with the Selective Services System from which a military draft may be called.

The Supreme Court is considering the case after the National Coalition For Men appealed an August ruling by the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that upheld the male-only draft.

The group of retired generals and admirals also included Army Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Randy Manner, Army Maj. Gen. Gale Pollock, Marine Brig. Gen. Stephen Cheney, Air Force Brig. Gen. Carlos Martinez, Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Marianne Watson, Navy Rear Adml. John Hutson and Navy Rear Adml. Harold Robinson.

The 10 retired generals and admirals said that including women in the draft would bolster the U.S. military’s readiness in the event that a draft is needed.

“Including women in the selective service would double the pool of candidates available to draft, raising the overall quality of the conscripted force and enabling the Nation to better meet its military needs,” they wrote.

The retired generals and admirals also pointed out that women are no longer excluded from combat roles in the military, as was the case when the Supreme Court upheld a male-only draft in 1981’s Rostker v. Goldberg case.

Arguing against the precedent set by Rostker v. Goldberg, the retired military officers noted women had graduated from some of the top training schools in the U.S. military including Ranger School, the Marine Corp’s Infantry Officer Course, and the Army’s Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course. The generals noted one woman completed the Navy SEALs two-week officer assessment and selection process but ultimately chose a different military occupational specialty, while two women have completed the U.S. Army Special Forces Officer Course in the last 40 years, including a woman who became the first-ever woman to receive the unit’s iconic Special Forces green beret last year.

In their brief, the retired officers said that while opening up military combat roles to women, the military did not lower its training standards.

“Rather than lowering military standards, fully integrating the armed forces has ensured that each individual, regardless of gender, is thoroughly qualified to meet the specific needs of his or her position,” they wrote. “Standards for roles remain high. They are simply now gender-neutral—to the benefit of the entire military force, male and female.”

While the retired generals and admirals said the military has not compromised its training standards, Stars and Stripes repored this week that the Army is considering changes to the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), to account for “biological differences” between men and women. Task and Purpose further reported, based on what it described as leaked Army briefing slides, that the service is considering making a two-minute plank an optional alternative test to the ACFT’s leg tuck test. The leg tuck test has been identified as a test in which female soldiers disproportionately fail.