In a symbolic move, Barack Obama has become the first US president to endorse universal draft registration since Jimmy Carter. The Pentagon also expressed support for a universal draft.
President Obama believes women have "proven their mettle" including in Afghanistan and Iraq, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council said on Thursday.
"As old barriers for military service are being removed, the administration supports - as a logical next step - women registering for the Selective Service," spokeman Ned Price said, using the formal name for the military draft.
The administration remains committed to an all-volunteer military. This means that women, like men, would not be forced to serve unless there were a national emergency.
As he leaves office in less than two months, the announcement from Obama is largely symbolic.
The Defense Department echoed Obama's position as Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said that Defense Secretary Ash Carter believed the inclusion of women throughout the ranks of the military had strengthened it.
"He thinks it makes sense for women to register for Selective Service, just as men must," Cook said.
There has been some opposition to the move from social conservatives, who see it as a blurring of gender lines similar to allowing transgender people to use public lavatories and locker rooms. Republican Congressman Pete Sessions from Texas commented on Thursday that it was "coercing America's daughters" into draft registration.
Integrating women into the army has been progressing only slowly. Army and Marine generals told senators earlier this year it would take up to three years to fully integrate women into all combat jobs. There have also been challenges in identifying large numbers of candidates who are able to meet the physical requirements.
Women in the army
Under current law, women can volunteer to serve in the military but they are not required to register for the draft.
Late last year, the Pentagon ordered that all military jobs should be opened to women. This included about 220,000 jobs previously restricted to men, including in special operations.
Supporters of the move said last year's decision removed any justification for gender restrictions on registration.
All adult men must register within 30 days of their 18th birthday. They risk losing eligibility for student aid, job training and government jobs if they fail to comply.
There has been no military draft since 1973, during the Vietnam War era.
jm/kl (AP, Reuters)