The uniformed leaders of the Army and Marine Corps said on Tuesday that they believe women should sign up for the draft now that the combat ban has been lifted.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley both said women should be required to sign up with the selective service in case the country ever needs to implement a draft.
"It's my personal view that based on this lifting of restrictions … that every American who's physically qualified should register for the draft," Neller said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
"Senator, I think that all eligible and qualified men and women should register for the draft," Milley said.
"I do too, I think it's the right thing going forward," said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who raised the issue at the hearing on gender integration.
Civilian leaders of the Navy and Army were more hesitant to actively endorse women signing up for the draft, though they both said it's an issue that needs to be looked at by lawmakers.
When Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced late last year that he was lifting the ban on women serving in combat, many immediately asked if this would now require women to sign up for the draft.
With lawsuits pending and the Selective Service System on the sidelines waiting to be handed policy to implement, the Justice Department has said everyone should wait until Congress makes a decision, said Lawrence Romo, director of the selective service.
While Romo expressed no personal opinion, he said he'd put the odds at "50/50" that the law will change.
"When I go on the road, I hear both ways. I hear people say it's the right thing to do, it's a good opportunity, women should do it. I also hear not my daughter, not my granddaughter," Romo said at the National Press Club on Friday.
There are currently two lawsuits pending, Romo said. One in New Jersey was filed by a woman who says it's discrimination that she's not allowed to register. Another in California is filed by a group of men who say they shouldn't be the only ones who have to sign up for the draft.
The Department of Justice has declined to move either case forward until Congress speaks on the issue, Romo said.
While the lifting of the ban on women in combat threw the question into the foreground, some members of Congress have been raising the issue of women being drafted for years. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., has introduced a bill for several years that would reinstate the draft for all men and women between the ages of 18 and 25.
"When I served, the entire nation shared the sacrifices through the draft and increased taxes. But today, only a fraction of America shoulders the burden. If war is truly necessary, we must all come together to support and defend our nation," Rangel, a Korean War veteran, wrote in a March statement when he most recently reintroduced the bill.
His bill would require men and women to be drafted by lottery whenever the country was under an authorization for the use of military force or a declaration of war, according to a release from his office.
If Congress does decide to draft women, Romo said he would need about 35 to 40 more full-time employees to input data and answer questions, and about two to five years to get all 18 to 25 year old women signed up for the selective service. He estimated his organization would need about $8.5 million more in the first year, for publicity and marketing, and $6.5 million in the second year after any law change.
About 6,500 men in the U.S. turn 18 every day. Romo said he estimated there's about a comparable number of women who would need to be registered.