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Virtual Town Hall: Will Congress ​Expand Military Draft Registration to Women?


On September 3rd, 2020, Truth in Recruitment hosted a virtual Town Hall with US Rep. Salud Carbajal. The topic of discussion was a congressional bill co-authored by Carbajal, that would expand the Selective Service’s mandatory registration for a military draft to women. The Town Hall featured a variety of panelists representing the Santa Barbara County community. The panelists addressed the implications of an expanded military draft, highlighting the negative aspects of its coercive requirements. The discussion was productive and educational, although it did not totally shift Carbajal’s position on the issue. 

Osiel, a senior at Alta Vista High School in Santa Barbara, was a featured Town Hall panelist:

“The town hall was met with lots of technical difficulties, however TIR as a team was able to push past these obstacles and continue the Zoom call. The attendees were attentive and genuinely interested, many asked questions of Salud Carbajal. The overall turnout was great, 40 plus people attended. During my turn to speak, as a panelist, many attendees could not hear me, I think this is because I was assigned as a panelist and an interpreter. Despite the audio issues my message was well received. I think the time spent on technical difficulties made the message TIR was spreading all that more powerful, it let the audience sit and dwell with the information presented to them.”

Rep. Carbajal actively listened to the perspectives of our panelists, and took the time to address the points he felt were the most crucial; Carbajal spent the majority of his response to the panelists by explaining how military enlistment benefitted him personally, and why it is unfair for men to be forced to register with the Selective Service System while women are not, but these points did not address the  arguments made by our panelists. Although we acknowledged that for Carbajal a military career was a positive experience and that requiring men to register for the draft is unfair, we pointed out that another way to resolve these inequities would be to abolish draft registration for all genders. The distinct differences are the solutions.

Rep. Carbajal claimed the best solution is expanding mandatory draft registration to include women, even calling this an act of gender equality. Town Hall panelists argued that the most equitable solution is to abolish the military draft and Selective Service System entirely, removing any mandatory measures regarding military service. These different approaches to solving the problem were the crux of the discussion, which Carbajal failed to properly address in his remarks.

Despite falling short of convincing Carbajal to reconsider Bill H.R. 6415, the Town Hall was still a great success.  This served as an excellent reminder: the work we do is rarely rewarded with immediate outcomes; but through consistent and diligent efforts, perspectives can be shifted and change can be made. 

Asks for Representative Carbajal:

1.   Full and fair hearings on the bill – Can he commit to pressuring Chairwoman Jackie Speier of the Military Personnel subcommittee, to have anti-draft witnesses at any hearings on whether to extend registration to women? We can provide and refer him to speakers.

2.   Will you also push for consideration of the bipartisan bill sponsored by Representative Peter DeFazio, H.R. 5492, which calls for the elimination of the Selective Service, at any hearings regarding it?

3.   Will you work to have enforcement methods and the cost, including lives and money, seriously discussed in consideration of the bills? We are not advocating for prosecution and incarceration of non-registrants, but the fact that there is nothing about enforcement in the bill ignores that legally non-registrants are liable for up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

4.   Would he consider removing the life-long penalties and legal retributions imposed on non-registrants from the Selective Service?

5.   Has he considered modifying H.R. 6415? It is a large bill with the recommendation to expand Selective Service to women buried in amongst many provisions. We suggest that the provision to extend draft registration to women be struck and instead insert the provisions of H.R. 5492. This would preserve the core principles of H.R. 6415 that increases funding and support for voluntary programs, such as Ameri Corps, Peace Corps and Senior Corps, while removing the punitive aspects of mandatory draft registration.

We sincerely appreciate Rep. Carbajal’s time in discussing the Selective Service System, and we look forward to continuing this conversation as our network of peace activists grows.