Author Biography

Leah E. Foodman is currently serving as an active-duty Armor Officer in the United States Army. She graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in American Politics. Her undergraduate thesis examined the role of legislative oversight on policies relating to gender in the military, and her broader academic interests include law, legislative politics, gender, civil-military relations.

Max Z. Margulies is an assistant professor and the Director of Research at the Modern War Institute at West Point. He earned his PhD in political science from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018. His research focuses on military recruitment and personnel policies, military effectiveness, and civil-military relations.



Subject Area Keywords

Defense policy, Identity, Military affairs, National security


Expanding mandatory selective service registration in the United States to include women would seem to be good public policy that increases national security and reduces gender bias. Despite the recent recommendation of a congressionally-mandated commission, recent efforts to implement this important reform have repeatedly stalled. Why? In this article, we explain the failure of selective service reform through the lens of American political institutions. Neither the composition of the Supreme Court, nor the institutional incentives facing legislators, are conducive to movement on this issue. Building on the legislative entrepreneurship literature, we argue that recent trends in congressional representation and the adoption of new issue framings are the most likely factors that will increase the probability of selective service reform. The absence of selective service reform in the United States reveals important facts about agenda-setting in defense policy and how political institutions shape the relationship between the public and the military.


The views expressed in this article are personal, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Military Academy or any other department or agency of the U.S. government.