Will Women Register for Selective Service?

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta today lifted the ban on women serving in combat positions, opening the door to more than 200,000 new military posts and raising a number of important questions including: Will women eventually be eligible for the draft?

By law, most male U.S. citizens must register with the Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthday. Registration puts those "male persons" on the list the government uses if ever the draft returned and conscription in the military was deemed necessary in a time of war.

As of a 1994 review, women were still exempt from registering because they did not serve in combat positions. Today's change in Pentagon policy, however, could ultimately result in a change to the law.

But it will take more than just the stroke of the defense secretary's pen for the Selective Service Act to include mention of women.

While the defense secretary can change military policy on his own, changing the law requires an act of Congress, a senior Pentagon official said.

With any change to personnel policies, the Defense Department "is required to provide an analysis of its impact on the Selective Service Act," the official said on the condition of anonymity.

The Pentagon will provide the results of that analysis to Congress, the official said, but from there it's up to lawmakers to decide whether women will be drafted.

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