Selective Service Director Lawrence G. Romo said women might have to register for the draft in the future.
At the present time, the Selective Service only registers men ages 18-25.
Republican presidential candidates weighed in on the issue at their last debate.
“Now that Secretary Carter has announced that all combat positions will be open to qualified women, DoD is working with Congress on its implementation plan. In addition, they will address the legal implications of the Department of Defense’s decision on the male-only registration requirement,” Romo said at the National Press Club in Washington.
“The bottom line for the Selective Service System is that we do not create policy; we implement the policy as mandated by our president and Congress,” he said.
According to Romo, there is a 50/50 chance women would have to register for the draft. He said Congress or the judicial system would eventually make a final decision on the matter.
“The White House will also be working with Congress to determine if changes are necessary in light of DOD’s decision to open all combat positions to qualified women,” he said.
Romo predicted that the agency would need a few years to fully register women aged 18-25. He reminded the public that the timetable depends on the wording of any legislation or court ruling making the change.
“I would say 2-5 years depending on the variables to get the numbers up to what the men are registering at,” he said.
Romo said his personal opinion on the matter is irrelevant.
“I’m here as an appointee to the agency and I do what the Congress and president dictate for me to do – that’s what a good steward of the federal government does – make government work,” he said.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) and Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) said at the ABC News debate women should be required to register.
“I have no problem whatsoever with people of either gender serving in combat so long as the minimum requirements necessary to do the job are not compromised … and obviously now that that is the case, I do believe that Selective Service should be opened up for both men and women in case a draft is ever instituted,” Rubio said.
“I do, and I do think that we should not impose any kind of political agenda on the military. There should be — if women can meet the requirements, the minimum requirements for combat service they ought to have the right to do it,” Bush said.
“There’s no reason why young women should be discriminated against from registering for the Selective Service. The fact is, we need to be a party and a people that makes sure that our women in this country understand anything they can dream, anything that they want to aspire to, they can do,” Christie said.
After the debate, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said he opposes registering women for the draft.
“I have to admit, as I was sitting there listening to that conversation, my reaction was, ‘Are you guys nuts?’” Cruz said on the campaign trail. “Listen, we have had enough with political correctness, especially in the military. Political correctness is dangerous and the idea that we would draft our daughters to forcibly bring them into the military and put them in close combat I think is wrong, it is immoral, and if I am president, we ain’t doing it.”
During a CNN town hall, Clinton declined to comment on the issue.
“I have to think about whether I think it’s necessary to go as far as our military officers are recommending,” she said.
Romo, appointed by President Obama, explained at the National Press Club that legal and illegal immigrant men are currently required to register for the draft.
“We don’t track anybody’s immigration status,” he said. “If a young man needs to register and they have a social, they can actually go online – it takes us two minutes. They just put a name, address and Social Security number,” he said.
If an illegal immigrant does not have a Social Security number, Romo said they are able to fill out a form at the post office to register.
“We do that because like in all of the wars historically, we actually had undocumented, green card and citizens serving our country because it was a national emergency,” he said.
Romo said he has personally encouraged undocumented immigrants to register even though they lack a legal immigration status.
“We have nothing to share with anybody or any of that. Now, when I go to restaurants and there are probably some people who are undocumented working there, I’ll talk to them in Spanish and tell them why it is important for them to register,” Romo said.
“We have literature, you can get it later on, in Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, different languages to make sure we serve all the immigrant populations, whether green card or undocumented. It’s important we get the word out,” he added.
Romo said the Selective Service would likely need an additional 35-40 full-time employees to implement a change that requires women to register. The agency currently has 124 full-time employees and a $23 million budget. In the first year of implementation, Romo said, the agency would need another $8.5 million and in the second year about $6.5 million.
“We’re a small agency,” he said. “Our call center would be the bulk of them.”