WASHINGTON — President Obama supports requiring women to register for Selective Service when they turn 18 — becoming the first president to endorse universal draft registration since Jimmy Carter.

"As old barriers for military service are being removed, the administration supports — as a logical next step — women registering for the Selective Service," said Ned Price, a spokesman for Obama's National Security Council.

The White House had previously expressed neutrality on the controversy, but took a position in a statement to USA TODAY on Thursday.

But the timing of Obama's support makes it mostly symbolic, coming in the final weeks of his presidency and the day before the House will vote on a defense policy bill that strips a Senate-passed provision to add women to Selective Service.

Instead, the compromise version now calls only for a commission to study two related issues: Whether women should be included in Selective Service, and whether the Selective Service system itself should be abolished.

The White House made clear that Obama supports an all-volunteer force, and there are no plans to re-institute the draft. But Obama believes adding women to the draft would serve two purposes: showing a commitment to gender equality throughout the armed services, and fostering a sense of public service that comes from requiring draft registration as a ritual of adulthood.