MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Wednesday it was up to Congress to decide whether to require women to register for the military draft, and he expected U.S. lawmakers to take up the issue this autumn.
Carter said the question was a natural outgrowth of his decision last year to open all combat positions to women.
He said that move was necessary to ensure that the U.S. military, an all-volunteer force, reached the most diverse group of applicants. "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.
The U.S. military has been an all-volunteer force since the 1970s, but young men must register for the Selective Service in case the draft is reactivated.
The top U.S. Marine Corps and Army generals said on Tuesday that women should be required to register for the military draft, along with men, as the armed forces move toward integrating them fully into combat positions.
Carter declined to give his opinion on the matter when pressed by reporters after his remarks, saying only he expected lawmakers to address it this autumn.
Carter announced in December that the military would let women serve in all combat roles, prompting opposition from many Republican members of Congress, some of whom said it would force women to register for the draft.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Peter Cooney)