US military leaders: Women should have to register for draft

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- U.S. armed forces leaders said on Tuesday that women should be required to register for the military draft, along with men, as the military moves toward integrating them fully into combat positions.

Congress should begin to look at legislation requiring women to register for the Selective Service, they told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on women in combat.

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"I think that all eligible and qualified men and women should register for the draft," said General Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps.

The U.S. military is currently an all-volunteer force, but young men are still required to register in case the draft is reactivated.

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US military leaders: Women should have to register for draft

Then U.S. Army First Lieutenant Kirsten Griest (C) and fellow soldiers participate in combatives training during the Ranger Course on Fort Benning, Georgia, in this handout photograph taken on April 20, 2015 and obtained on August 20, 2015. When Griest and another woman completed the daunting U.S. Army Ranger school this week they helped end questions about whether women can serve as combat leaders, as the Pentagon is poised to open new roles, including elite Navy SEALs, to women in coming months. The feat by Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver followed a re-evaluation of the role of women after their frontline involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and the end of a rule barring them from combat roles in 2013.

(REUTERS/Spc. Nikayla Shodeen/U.S. Army/Handout via Reuters)

Capt. Kristen Griest salutes during the graduation ceremony of the United States Army's Ranger School on August 21, 2015 at Fort Benning, Georgia . Capt. Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver are the first women ever to successfully complete the U.S. Army's Ranger School.

(Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

U.S. Army Soldiers take part in the Ranger Course on Fort Benning, Georgia, April 21, 2015. When two women completed the daunting U.S. Army Ranger school this week they helped end questions about whether women can serve as combat leaders, as the Pentagon is poised to open new roles, including elite Navy SEALs, to women in coming months. Army Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver on Tuesday completed a 62-day course including parachute jumps, helicopter assaults, swamp survival and small unit leadership that earned them a Ranger badge. Picture taken April 21, 2015.

(REUTERS/U.S. Army/Sgt. Paul Sale/Handout)

U.S. Army Soldiers 1st Lt. Shaye Haver (R) takes part in mountaineering training during the at the U.S. Army Ranger School on Mount Yonah July 14, 2015 in Cleveland, Georgia. U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver were the first female soldiers to graduate from Ranger School.

(Ebony Banks/U.S. Army via Getty Images)

Capt. Kristen Griest of Orange, Connecticut (L) and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Texas chat as they wait to receive their ranger tabs at Ranger school graduation at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia August 21, 2015. The two pioneering women made history on Friday as they became the first females to graduate from the Army's elite and grueling 62-day Ranger school, at Fort Benning, Georgia. Though Haver and Griest are still not eligible to take part in front-line combat, according to reports, a decision on whether to change that policy could come in the fall.

(REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest (R) participates in an obstacle course as part the training at the U.S. Army Ranger School June 28, 2015 at Fort Benning, Georgia. U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver were the first female soldiers to graduate from Ranger School.

(Photo by Scott Brooks/U.S. Army via Getty Images)

Capt. Kristen Griest of Orange, Connecticut (L) and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Texas wave to family and friends as they wait to receive their ranger tabs at Ranger school graduation at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia August 21, 2015. The two pioneering women made history on Friday as they became the first females to graduate from the Army's elite and grueling 62-day Ranger school, at Fort Benning, Georgia. Though Haver and Griest are still not eligible to take part in front-line combat, according to reports, a decision on whether to change that policy could come in the fall.

(REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

Captain Kristen Griest (L) participates in training at the U.S. Army Ranger School on Ft. Benning Georgia, June 23, 2015. When two women completed the daunting U.S. Army Ranger school this week they helped end questions about whether women can serve as combat leaders, as the Pentagon is poised to open new roles, including elite Navy SEALs, to women in coming months. Army Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver on Tuesday completed a 62-day course including parachute jumps, helicopter assaults, swamp survival and small unit leadership that earned them a Ranger badge. Picture taken June 23, 2015.

(REUTERS/U.S. Army/Spc. Eric Hurtado/Handout)

First Lt. Shaye Haver (center) and Capt. Kristen Griest (center right) are surrounded by a group of female friends and supporters after receiving their Ranger tab and graduating from the United States Army's Ranger School during a ceremony at Fort Benning, Georgia on August 21, 2015. Griest and Haver are the first females to graduate from the Army's intensive Ranger School.

(Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

Maj. Lisa Jaster holds her daughter Victoria, 3, and her son Zachary, 7, following Ranger School graduation ceremonies on October 16, 2015, at Victory Pond in Columbus, Ga. Jaster, who is the third woman to earn the Ranger Tab, entered Ranger training with Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, who were the first two women to graduate from Ranger School during ceremonies on August 21.

(Robin Trimarchi/Columbus Ledger-Enquirer/TNS via Getty Images)

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Shaye Haver (L) takes part in mountaineering training during the at the U.S. Army Ranger School on Mount Yonah July 14, 2015 in Cleveland, Georgia. U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver were the first female soldiers to graduate from Ranger School.

(Photo by Ebony Banks/U.S. Army via Getty Images)

U.S. Army U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest (2nd L) takes part in mountaineering training during the at the U.S. Army Ranger School on Mount Yonah July 14, 2015 in Cleveland, Georgia. U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver were the first female soldiers to graduate from Ranger School.

(Photo by Yvette Zabala-Garriga/U.S. Army via Getty Images)

U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest (R) participates in an obstacle course as part the training at the U.S. Army Ranger School June 23, 2015 at Fort Benning, Georgia. U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver were the first female soldiers to graduate from Ranger School.

(Photo by Scott Brooks/U.S. Army via Getty Images)

The 96 graduating soldiers of the United States Army's Ranger School sit together during the graduation ceremony of the United States Army's Ranger School on August 21, 2015 at Fort Benning, Georgia . Capt. Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver are the first women ever to successfully complete the U.S. Army's Ranger School.

(Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Shaye Haver (R) participates in an obstacle course as part the training at the U.S. Army Ranger School June 28, 2015 at Fort Benning, Georgia. U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver were the first female soldiers to graduate from Ranger School.

(Photo by Scott Brooks/U.S. Army via Getty Images)

U.S. Army Soldiers 1st Lt. Shaye Haver (R) takes part in mountaineering training during the at the U.S. Army Ranger School on Mount Yonah July 14, 2015 in Cleveland, Georgia. U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver were the first female soldiers to graduate from Ranger School.

(Photo by Ebony Banks/U.S. Army via Getty Images)

Soldier climbs the Prusik Tower during the 2004 Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning, Ga., April 24, 2004

(Photo by Russ Bryant/WireImage)

US Army Rangers demonstrate their patrolling at the Ranger Training Bridgade at the US Army Infantry School in Fort Benning, Georgia 20 December 2002. The Ranger's primary mission is to engage in the close combat direct fire battle.

(STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images)

A U.S. Army Ranger unit goes through its paces during a demonstration of the elite force November 9, 2001 before a graduation ceremony at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. Rangers have been used in the military actions in Afghanistan.

(Photo by Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images)

A U.S. Army Ranger unit goes through its paces during a demonstration of the elite force November 9, 2001 before a graduation ceremony at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. Rangers have been used in the military actions in Afghanistan.

(Photo by Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images)

A U.S. Army Ranger rappels down a tower during a demonstration of the elite force November 9, 2001 before a graduation ceremony at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia.

(Photo by Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images)

1st Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Texas gets a hug after Ranger school graduation at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia August 21, 2015. The two pioneering women made history on Friday as they became the first females to graduate from the Army's elite and grueling 62-day Ranger school, at Fort Benning, Georgia. Though Haver and Griest are still not eligible to take part in front-line combat, according to reports, a decision on whether to change that policy could come in the fall.

(REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

1st Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Texas walks to Ranger school graduation at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia August 21, 2015. The two pioneering women made history on Friday as they became the first females to graduate from the Army's elite and grueling 62-day Ranger school, at Fort Benning, Georgia. Though Haver and Griest are still not eligible to take part in front-line combat, according to reports, a decision on whether to change that policy could come in the fall.

(REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

Capt. Kristen Griest of Orange, Connecticut (L) and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Texas (C) look towards the families at Ranger school graduation at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia August 21, 2015. Griest and Haver are the first two women U.S. Army Rangers to complete the school but cannot serve due to their gender.

(REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

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The military leaders at the hearing said it would take years for women to be fully integrated into combat units, although they generally voiced strong support for the plan to skeptical committee members.

"Full integration will likely take several years," Patrick Murphy, acting secretary of the Army, said.

Mark Milley, the Army chief of staff, estimated that full integration of women would take "no less than one to three years of deliberate effort."

President Barack Obama's defense secretary, Ash Carter, announced in December that the military would let women serve in all combat roles, a historic announcement greeted with intense skepticism by many Republican members of Congress.

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, the committee's chairman, objected to the announcement at the time. He said it would have "a consequential impact" on U.S. forces and their war-fighting capabilities.

At Tuesday's hearing, McCain again expressed doubts, saying he worried there had not been enough planning before the announcement. "I am concerned that the department has gone about things backwards," McCain said.

Some Republican critics of the plan have said they fear it would lead to the imposition of quotas mandating a specific number of women in some units, such as Marines in positions that might require hand-to-hand combat.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus rejected that suggestion as "unacceptable," adding, "It would endanger not only the safety of Marines, but also the safety of our nation."

Many Democrats have expressed strong support.

Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the panel, said physical abilities alone do not determine whether a military unit is effective.

"Fighting and winning wars, as I'm sure our panelists know well, involves much more than that," Reed said.

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