Congress Weighs Drafting Women To Military | Crooked Media
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June 20, 2024
What A Day
Congress Weighs Drafting Women To Military

In This Episode

  • Congress is weighing proposals to update mandatory military conscription policies — aka the draft — including whether to expand it to include women. It’s an idea that’s been debated for a while, especially since women started serving in combat roles nearly a decade ago. This month, a proposal to require women to register for the draft was included in a big Pentagon policy bill passed out of the Senate Armed Services Committee. However, it’s unlikely to win final approval. Katherine Kuzminski, a senior fellow and director of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for New American Security, explains why the draft is still limited to just men.
  • And in headlines: The Supreme Court kept us waiting again on Thursday for rulings on high-profile cases, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a military defense pact with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, and Louisiana Republican Gov. Jeff Landry signed a bill mandating that the Ten Commandments be posted in all public school classrooms.


Show Notes:



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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, June 21st. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.


Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi and this is What a Day where we are questioning the exterminator team at the State Department after a cockroach crawling on the wall disrupted spokesperson Matt Miller’s train of thought during a briefing. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, Miller told reporters, quote, “I hate to interrupt. There’s a big cockroach on the wall over your head there. We’ll defer that. No insecticide, no roach-icide in the briefing.” [music break] On today’s show, SCOTUS upholds a Trump era tax law and issues three other decisions. Plus, Vice President Kamala Harris and rapper Quavo talk about gun violence. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But first, Congress is assessing proposals to update mandatory military conscription policies, aka the draft, including whether to expand the draft to women. Just a bit of background here before we get into it. The US military has not actually used the draft in more than 50 years. The last time was in 1973, which was the year that the U.S. withdrew from the Vietnam War. Since then, we’ve had an all volunteer military force. But federal law still requires almost all men in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 25 to register with the Selective Service System. That agency keeps a database of all the people around the country who could possibly be subject to a draft if Congress and the president ever activated one. Most states have laws that automatically register people who qualify when they get a driver’s license or apply for college. In 2023, there were more than 15 million men around the country who were registered. I personally am very curious about how many of those 15 million knew they were registered for this, but again, only men. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Right. And now there’s this idea out there to expand the potential draft to include women. Can you tell us more about that? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. It’s an idea that’s been batted around for a little while now, especially since women started serving in combat roles nearly a decade ago. In 2020, a national commission appointed by Congress actually recommended expanding draft registration to women, calling it a, quote, “necessary and fair step.” And most recently, a proposal to require it was included in a big Pentagon policy bill that passed out of the Senate Armed Services Committee this month. That’s why you might have been hearing more about this recently, but there still isn’t enough bipartisan support for expanding the draft to women to become law. It’s not particularly popular in the House or the Senate at this point. I wanted to learn a little more about what could actually happen in the event that the U.S. does need to bring the draft back, what could even bring that on in the first place? So I spoke earlier with Katherine Kuzminski. She is a senior fellow and director of the Military, Veterans and Society program at the center for New American Security. That’s a D.C. think tank that specializes in national security issues. I started by asking her why federal law still only requires men to register for the draft. 


Katherine Kuzminski: The Supreme Court had a case back in the early ’80s that looked at this exact question about whether or not it was constitutional for us to have an all male draft. And what they found was because women at the time couldn’t serve in combat positions, it didn’t make sense for women to have to register for selective service. And that therefore held up the current constitutionality of the all male registration all male draft. However, in 2015, the policy changed and now women are eligible to serve in combat positions in any MOS or specialty across any of the services. And so the underlying legality and constitutionality of the all male draft may be more in question now. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Why is the draft still necessary? The U.S. military moved to an all voluntary service 50 years ago. The act of waging war obviously has changed so much since then. With all the new technology we have, why are we still talking about this? 


Katherine Kuzminski: The reality is there are still conflicts that could happen that could pose an existential threat to the United States, that would require our citizens to serve in the military. Fortunately, we’ve been able to deter conflict of that scale for the last, you know, over 80 years now looking back at World War two, um but it’s still an area of concern. And we certainly see that European nations are wrestling with the same question themselves now. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Most reports suggest that this proposal to, you know, mandate conscription for women is almost guaranteed to fail. But, you know, the debate also continues to come up and will need to, you know, get resolved at some point. So how do you think this will ultimately end up? 


Katherine Kuzminski: I think it ends one of two ways. First of all, it should be a very difficult conversation. It’s asking American citizens to consider what the cost might be of citizenship. Um. And so the threshold for making the decision to actually use the draft should be a really difficult one politically. I don’t think that we’ll see anyone really wanting to stick their neck out and vote for this, but it is possible that we do see a case that goes up to the Supreme Court that actually forces Congress to really wrestle with the issue of what the existing law is, that either they’ll have to go away from a draft altogether, or if it applies to men, it needs to apply to all Americans between the ages of 18 and 26 as it currently stands. 


Priyanka Aribindi: What would it even take to get the U.S. to the point where, you know, they’d have to seriously consider implementing the draft?


Katherine Kuzminski: It’s not a rosy situation, right? And that’s part of the reason why I think we need to think about it in a peacetime setting um and get the policy and the law sorted out, because if a conflict were to emerge that posed such an existential threat to the United States, that we would be willing to use the draft, and by we I mean the President and Congress would both have to vote to pass it. We’d already be in pretty deep trouble. And so anything that’s going to cause a delay or a challenge to the credibility of the draft needs to be figured out ahead of time. And so we can foresee the legal opposition to the implementation of an all male draft in the future. And that’s the operational reason why we should be thinking about what the law needs to be now before we actually need it. And hopefully the fact that we as a nation are signaling to would be adversaries that we could be in it for the long haul and we could supply the human capital. It keeps them from wanting to instigate conflict in the first place. 


Priyanka Aribindi: To some who are removed from this, myself included, probably seems rather like far away and not an idea that is at all close. But even in the last few years, we are arguably closer to facing some kind of existential threat that could require a draft that we haven’t really quite seen since the height of the Cold War. We’ve seen Russia invade Ukraine, growing fears that Vladimir Putin could invade a NATO nation after that. We also know that China is watching what happens with the war in Ukraine, to see what that could mean for their ambitions with Taiwan. How could the lingering questions about whether women should be required or not to register for the draft hamper American military readiness in a crisis? 


Katherine Kuzminski: Yeah, so I’ll tackle that from kind of misconceptions about what the draft is about. Right. So there have been a number of thought pieces in the previous years that say, hey, we’re having a military recruiting challenge, so we should have the draft in order to meet that goal. That’s not what the draft is for, right? It’s not about meeting steady state requirements. There are others who say we need the draft, because we need Americans to understand what the cost of citizenship is and what the responsibilities of citizenship are. And to that I say there are other ways to go about educating the public on what it means to be a citizen and what it means for our military to serve in conflict situations, because it’s not about, oh, this is a tool we can grab off the shelf. This is truly for the worst of situations. If we look at some of our peer allies in Europe, as you were mentioning, Germany, France and the U.K. are currently debating about whether or not they bring back conscription. And that is in part due to the fact that their proximity to Putin’s Russia and to some of the fears that we have about a potential, you know, attack on a NATO member are real and existential and force a really hard conversation about this. And so it’s worth it for us to think ahead as well about what are the circumstances under which we would use it, and how do we make it effective should we ever need it?


Priyanka Aribindi: That was my conversation with Katherine Kuzminski. She is a senior fellow and director of the Military, Veterans, and Society program at the center for New American Security. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That is the latest for now. We’ll get to some headlines in a moment, but if you like our show, make sure to subscribe, share it with your friends and we’ll be back after some ads. [music break]




Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Priyanka Aribindi: The Supreme Court kept us waiting yet again on Thursday for rulings on high profile cases. Four decisions were released though, one of them was Moore v the United States. The court upheld a Trump era corporate tax on foreign investments in a seven to two vote, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh writing the majority opinion and Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch dissenting. The case drew a lot of attention because it touched on some bigger questions, like whether Congress could pass a wealth tax. Now, we’re still waiting for more than a dozen major cases. Trump’s immunity case is probably the most watched case this session that will determine if former President Trump can claim immunity from his varying election interference charges. We’re also waiting for the US v Rahimi, which questions whether domestic violence offenders can obtain guns, as well as Idaho v the US, where emergency care for pregnant people is at stake. We certainly have a ways to go in terms of decisions that will come out. Gird your loins, everyone stay, stay on those push alerts. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I don’t know. Doesn’t feel good. 


Tre’vell Anderson: On Wednesday, Vladimir Putin made a rare visit to North Korea and signed a defense pact with Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. The two leaders signed an agreement that said if one of their countries is facing military aggression, the other would supply, quote, “military and other assistance with all means in its possession without delay. Since Putin launched Russia’s full scale war in Ukraine two years ago, he has grown deeper military ties with North Korea, and this is obviously a big step in that relationship. The agreement was met with criticism from the US, South Korea and other allies. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Louisiana’s Republican governor, Jeff Landry, signed a bill mandating that the Ten Commandments be posted in all public school classrooms. That is so batshit crazy. Truly. The law requires that the commandments must be displayed on a poster no smaller than 11 by 14 inches , and they must be accompanied by a statement saying that the Ten Commandments were, quote, a “prominent part of American public education for almost three centuries.” I am a little perplexed. Was not a prominent part of my American public education. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I don’t know about you Tre’vell, but it’s a little not adding up. Wednesday’s decision makes Louisiana the first state to make such a requirement. Other GOP led states like Texas, South Carolina and Utah have tried to pass similar rules in the past but have been met with no success. The ACLU, along with other organizations, say that they plan to sue Louisiana over the law, but Landry seems open to the challenge. Speaking at a Republican fundraiser earlier this week, he said, quote, “I can’t wait to be sued.” Great. Famous last words, do it. Do it and make him wish he never did, I guess. Publicly funded K-through-12 schools, colleges and universities must comply with the new law by next year. This is not just elementary schools. I can’t imagine this at college. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That’s wild. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Ugh. Hate this. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Truly bizarre. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And finally, Quavo, the rapper most known for being part of the rap group Migos, hosted a summit against gun violence this week in honor of his late nephew and fellow group member, Takeoff. The first ever Rocket Foundation Summit was hosted in Atlanta on Wednesday and featured a fireside chat with Vice President Kamala Harris. Quavo and his family launched the Rocket Foundation after Takeoff was fatally shot at a private party in 2022. Wednesday’s summit marked what would have been his 30th birthday. Victims and survivors of gun violence shared their experiences at the day long event. Quavo and the vice president spoke to a crowd about the importance of community based intervention in stopping gun violence. Gun safety has been one of the issues Harris has focused on during her time in office, and is campaigning on this election season. Harris praised Quavo for what he’s doing to prevent gun violence, saying, quote, “to translate that pain and grief into something that is about creating strength and empowerment in the community, including our young, is pretty extraordinary.” 


Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely extraordinary. Really have to commend Quavo for doing this. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. 


Priyanka Aribindi: There really is only one side of the aisle here that even remotely cares about this issue and wants our kids, our young people, to have full, happy, healthy lives and not be taken from us far too soon. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Because of senseless gun violence. And thank you to Quavo for using his platform to share that. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. And those are the headlines. 


Priyanka Aribindi: [AD BREAK]


Tre’vell Anderson: That is all for today. If you like the show. Make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Check to see if you’re registered with the Selective Service System, and tell your friends to listen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you are into reading and not just SCOTUS tax decisions like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’velll Anderson. 


[spoken together] And SCOTUS, share those decisons.


Priyanka Aribindi: We’ve gotten to the end of the show. I’m officially on vacation. Share whatever you want. [laughter]


Tre’vell Anderson: Love that for you, Priyanka. 


Priyanka Aribindi: See you in July, everybody. [laughter] [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf. We had production help today from Michell Eloy, Greg Walters, and Julia Claire. Our showrunner is Erica Morrison and our executive producer is Adriene Hill. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.