As Congress begins debate on whether to force women to register for the draft, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers has a compromise solution: Get rid of it altogether.
On Thursday, a group of four representatives — Mike Coffman, R-Colo.; Jared Polis, D-Colo.; Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.; and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif. — introduced new legislation to abolish the Selective Service System, calling it an outdated and unneeded program.
"Maintaining the Selective Service simply makes no sense," Coffman, a Marine Corps veteran, said in a statement. "In 1973, the last draftee entered the Army and since then, despite the first Gulf War and subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon has never considered reinstituting the draft."
The idea comes amid dueling proposals from other lawmakers either requiring or continuing to exempt women from registering for the draft for the first time in U.S. history.
In December, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced plans to open all infantry and combat-unit positions to women, provided they meet gender-neutral job standards. The military's past prohibition on women serving in those roles also provided a legal backing for excluding women from registering for the draft.
Coffman said re-opening of that debate provides a timely opportunity to get rid of the Selective Service System. Agency activities cost taxpayers roughly $23 million each year, and a 2012 Government Accountability Office report questioned whether the system could even provide a viable list of draftees to the Defense Department if needed.
Military officials have repeatedly said that reverting to the draft from the current all-volunteer system would have significant negative impact on troop training, readiness and quality.
DeFazio noted that young men who fail to register for the draft face penalties, including denial of federal student loans and potential criminal punishment.
"Not only will abolishing the Selective Service save the U.S. taxpayers money, it will remove an undue burden on our nation's young people," he said in a statement. "We need to get rid of this mean-spirited and outdated system and trust that if the need should arise Americans — both male and female — will answer the call to defend our nation."
Defense Department officials have said they are reviewing draft rules and regulations, and expect to issue recommendations in coming months. The issue is expected to be a key point of controversy in the annual defense authorization bill debate.
It has also become a talking point on the Republican presidential campaign trail. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio have both offered support for having women register, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has voiced strong opposition to the idea.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.