US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said on Wednesday that it was up to Congress to decide on whether to require women to register for the military draft, and he expected US lawmakers to take up the issue this autumn.
In December, Carter announced that the Pentagon had plans to open combat roles to women in the US military.
The Pentagon chief said the question is an outgrowth of his decision to integrate women fully into combat positions.
"They'll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars, lead infantry soldiers into combat. They'll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force Parajumpers and everything else that was previously open only to men," Carter said at the time.
"We need to reach the largest pool of people that we can, and women make up half of our country," he told a group of Marines at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California.
In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday that centered on the implementation of Carter’s recent decision, top US Marine Corps and Army generals said women should be required to register for the military draft.
“I think that all eligible and qualified men and women should register for the draft," General Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps said.
All male US citizens between the ages of 18 and 25 are required by law to register to the Selective Service System, an independent agency which keeps track of potential eligibility for military service. The US military has been an all-volunteer force since the 1970s, however records are still kept in case the military draft is reactivated.
It is up to Congress to pass regulations that would require women to register to the system, while the legislative body has yet to make any apparent move in this direction.