By Eugene Scott
(CNN) — President Barack Obama now supports women registering for the Selective Service — a shift in the White House’s previous position.
“The President highly values the service of men and women who comprise our All-Volunteer force and have proven their mettle in our missions worldwide, including operations in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Ned Price, spokesman for the National Security Council, told CNN Friday in a statement.
“And as old barriers for military service are being removed, the Administration supports — as a logical next step — women registering for the Selective Service,” he added.
The Selective Service system maintains contact information for Americans who may potentially be subject to military conscription. Currently, all male US citizens and immigrants 18 to 25 years old are required to register with Selective Service. Not doing so is illegal.
The White House had previously been neutral on the issue.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter also believes it makes sense for women to register for Selective Service, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said.
“His decision last year to open all combat positions to qualified women only strengthens our All-Volunteer force by giving us access to 100 percent of America’s population so we can recruit and retain the most qualified individuals who can meet our standards and remain the finest fighting force the world has ever known,” Cook said Friday in a statement to CNN.
Both Obama and Carter believe there is no need to reinstate the military draft; the debate pertains only to the Selective Service registration system.
For the first time, the Senate in June overwhelmingly passed a $602 billion defense bill that included a provision that would require women to register for the draft. The House of Representatives stripped out that requirement and a compromise version of the legislation is being hammered out that may not contain the registration requirement.
The administration opened all military occupational specialties — including “combat jobs” — to women in December 2015. Since then, women have graduated from the Army’s elite Ranger school, served on submarines, and completed Marine Corps Artillery officer’s training.
In 1981, the Supreme Court upheld a Congressional decision to exempt women from registering for the Selective Service, deciding that because women were restricted from combat, there would be no need for their services in the event of a draft.
The change in Obama’s position was first reported by USA Today.
CNN’s Ryan Browne and Allison Malloy contributed to this report.