National Commission on Military Service To Release Interim Report in January

Brigadier General Joe Heck, US Army Reserve, former Member of Congress and current chair of the NCMNPS, addresses the Commission’s public meeting in Los Angeles. Photo by Edward Hasbrouck.

No matter what happens in today’s voting, it won’t end the bipartisan support for war or the need for antiwar activism outside the sphere of electoral politics.

Case in point: The bipartisan National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service is continuing to work toward recommendations to Congress and the President on whether draft registration should be ended, extended to women, modified to include people with skills in special demand by the military (health care, foreign languages, tech, etc.), and/or replaced with a compulsory national service scheme with both military and civilian components.

The Commission completed its initial round of stage-managed public meetings in September 2018. Here’s more on the activities of the Commission including records of its closed-door meetings and invited briefings, released in response to my ongoing Freedom Of Information Act requests. I will continue to post more Commission documents at as I receive them.

The Commissioners are part-time federal employees, generally meeting for a couple of days each month. Following closed meetings in October, November, and December 2018, the Commissioners plan to release an interim report in January 2019 laying out several possible policy options with respect to the Selective Service System, to test public reaction and set the terms of public debate.

The likely extent of resistance to conscription and the (un)feasibility of enforcement of expanded draft registration or compulsory service aren’t likely to be considered in the interim report, since the Commission hasn’t done any research or invited any testimony on these issues.

At its closed meeting in October 2018, the Commission invited legal scholars to discuss the Constitutionality of compulsory national service. One participant described the panel as "focusing on mandatory civilian service, not just the military kind".

Just after this meeting, an op-ed was published in The Hill which appears to be a trial balloon for at least some of the Commissioners who support a compulsory national service program for all young people.

The Commission plans more formal hearings in 2019 with testimony by invited experts on the issues the Commission thinks are important. Members of the public can still submit comments through the Commission’s Web site or by e-mail, but it’s not clear to what extent they will be considered.

The Commission is dragging its feet on releasing the comments it has already received, saying it will take more than another year to process my FOIA request for them. I assume the reason it doesn’t want to disclose the responses to its request for public comment is that they are overwhelmingly opposed to military conscription or compulsory service.

(There are, of course, supporters of the draft and compulsory national service, but I’ve been able to find no evidence that they mobilized to submit comments to the Commission, as opponents of conscription did.)

The law which created the Commission, as amended earlier this year, requires the Commission to issue a final report and recommendations (including whether to end draft registration or extend it to women) by March 2020.

The Commission is explicitly focused on “creating a national conversation” about military conscription and national service. A major element of its work is planning how to release its interim and final reports in such a way as to shape and set the terms of public discussion. Our challenge will be to make the resistance to conscription part of that discussion.

With the Commission meeting in secret in November and December 2018 to finalize its interim report, the next public development will be the release of the Commission’s interim report, which is planned for January 2019, followed by formal hearings, probably in Washington, with invited expert witnesses.

Even if resisters aren’t invited to testify, those hearings will be a focus of public attention and discussion of the issue of the draft. The antiwar ant-conscription movement needs to be prepared to make our voices part of a national debate on compulsory military and civilian service to which we aren’t likely to be invited.

Edward Hasbrouck works with

40 thoughts on “National Commission on Military Service To Release Interim Report in January”

  1. Legally they can not keep in all men as that violates equal protection so either scrap it or add women. Men won’t comply if women are allowed to opt out, fairness.

    1. The 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause textually and specifically applies to the states, not to the federal government.

      Of course, the 13th Amendment clearly forbids conscription anyway. But it’s not like the feds consider themselves bound by the Constitution or anything else. They do what they damn well please.

      1. Not true. There are Federal Civil Rights laws that prohibit gender bias by the Federal government. It was those laws, last updated in 2010 that a group of female veterans used to sue the DoD to remove gender restrictions on combat roles. The case was never resolved in the court as President Obama, through his Def. Secretaries Panetta and Carter, removed them thus the case was put on hold. President Trump, though Mattis, is not making any changes, in fact they are having more women in those formally closed jobs.
        I mention this because when the Supreme Court ruled in 1981 on the all male system, they did not base in on the Federal Government being able to do as they please. They based it on the DoD having strict limitations to women’s roles, at the time women were not sent anywhere there could be the risk of combat, as they were not considered soldiers. That changed in 1994 and to keep the military going in the current war, women have been expanding their roles to now be in all areas and the DoD announced that if needed, they will force women (who enlisted) into front line combat in advance of the need of a draft. The old adage, “free a man to fight” is now “free a man from having to fight”. Thus is 2017 the DoD formally requested Congress to add women to registration saying it will strengthen the country’s defense (double the pool). In addition the DOJ, legal arm of selective service, announced in March 2016 that the selective service law was in violation of Federal Equal protection laws now that the DoD, with Congressional approval, has not gender rules. There are two lawsuits now in Federal Court on this matter, one in Houston and one in San Francisco. The DOJ defense is that since Congress must enact a draft, unless one can predict the future, then one can not sue on speculation. As long as no man is harmed, basically all men born after 01/01/98, are put into the system to prevent denial of services, the law can stand. Of course three issues, what to do if there is a draft, what happens when they hit 26, and what about the 3% of Federal judges who will rule on principal. There will be no draft. The law will be fixed before 01/01/24. Item 3 is the big problem as what will President “Bone Spurs” Trump do if a judge rules against it.

        1. Knapp is correct .Feds do what they please.Constitution is dead.Congressional action was needed to authorize war but now our chickenhawk draftdodging presidents can do that.Research a list of US military interventions since WW11.

          1. True, Presidents can commit troops to war and Congress can do as they please, however a discriminatory draft would be stopped by the courts. It came close to that in 1968, thus the lottery system. While the DoD had gender restrictions on women, it could stand the legal challenges, now that he DoD has no gender restrictions, the draft must not have them either. That is why there is the Service Commission, to discuss the future of a meaningless law, registration. It is not like they don’t have the names anyway.

          2. I’m skeptical about how quickly the draft really could be reinstated, and I say that having served 8 years as a federal Selective Service System appointee. The machinery has been rusting for more than 40 years and they don’t even bother trying to keep much oil on it, thankfully.

            That’s setting aside the likely public reaction if Congress seemed to be seriously considering it. I expect the first congressional casualties before the first draftee casualties.

          3. You are forgetting a lot.The main thing that’s kept the draft at arms length has been the scarcity of jobs in the new Murrka,The redeployments,PTSD,and veterans’ suicides have since taken the spotlight so enlistments should suffer a major setback for the plans of the warmongering neocon chickenhawks who are positioning Russia and China as their new targets,.The draft is easily reinstated following the next inflammatory false flag event.

          4. Oh I almost forgot how easily past draftdodgers and sons of privilege are now hailed as “patriots” by the MSM.Bone spurs must really hurt,huh?

          5. Well, you can say that the draft is easily reinstated all you like. I’ve seen the machinery for doing so in action, and it is creaky and not likely to work very well for quite some time after they start cranking it up.

            And that’s setting aside the distinct possibility of congresscritters hanging from trees if they seriously take up the idea.

          6. We shall see.I’ve seen it work as well.Lost a few friends in Viet Nam.As I said,false flags work well on the natives.Look at 911,Gulf of Tonkin,Remember the Maine,etc.Military draft doesn’t work too well though on sons of privilege.
            The neocons,along with Netanyahu and MBS really want war on Iran and regime change in Syria

          7. That is pure fantasy. There are about 11,000 “volunteers”, or course in a real draft I’m wondering how many would “vanish” from their job given that 50 years ago offices were attacked and today with social media they would not be safe even at home. Also, there are about 2200 draft boards. I doubt 4 employees per board would work out. You would need around 25,000 security guards given that many were attacked, fire bombed, ransacked during off hours, in the late sixties since there was no security and off hours not even an alarm system. They relied on the good will of the people not to destroy them.
            Also, there is no incentive for an unwilling person to comply given that those who ducked out became President, college professors, business leaders. Again, when the registration was re-instituted in 1980 about 73% of Congress, plus the President and VP served. Today it is around 16% and neither the President nor the VP served. Back then they wanted to reverse the direction of the volunteer military (AVF). Today it is a forgone conclusion that society will not accept a draft and the government has no means to enforce it as the only enforcement method was shaming draft dodgers. Sure they could prosecute the few and use them as examples but today those examples would probably be acquitted. In 1968 around 35% (all male) so it was around 70% of the men 30-70 served. Today since everything is coed only 6% of those ages 30-70 served (jury age).

          8. Exactly.

            When I was on a local draft board, the acting Selective Service Commissioner came to observe one of our two “board training” sessions (after that, they pretty much went to an online “watch a video, take a quiz” format).

            Nice guy, actually, and former Marine, but that he was appointed showed just how much importance the government placed on the Selective Service System: His previous position had been “official greeter” for the House of Representatives. They weren’t willing to move anyone out of a position any more important than that to honcho an entire federal agency. It was obviously considered a dead end for anyone whose career trajectory pointed upward.

            The local boards would fall apart quickly if stressed by actually having to operate a draft even if their hearts were in it (hint: Think about who I am, why I was on that board, and that there are others like me).

          9. LOL.Who are you trying to convince,me or yourselves?Those bureaucratic gliches pale into insignificance when placed in the Realpolitik of supplying fodder for the war machine.War is now our leading export.How much has our military budget ballooned?You tell me.

          10. Doesn’t matter what you think. The biggest problem facing a draft, besides the fact that nothing is in place, the DB that selective service has was never studied to determine what modifications, and how, are needed in a draft. For instance it only has, name, DOB, SSN, and address, if women are added then gender. However, don’t you think more is needed, i.e. classification, did they show up, status, medical conditions. None of this has been studied and we don’t have a clue since the last time there was a draft everything was on paper and pencil.
            Also, the draft is unenforceable. England did a poll recently and 40% of those under 40 said they would ignore a draft while only 25% said they would adhere. The remaining 35% had mixed views. So even if 10% of that 35% ducked, then how would a draft work with over half not showing up. I’m sure the USA would be no better.

          11. Well, here’s the realpolitik of supplying fodder for the war machine:

            The war machine has been doing just fine with no draft for nearly 50 years now, and will continue to do just fine without one. Between automation, simplification, and the availability of mercenaries, no politician has to take the political risk involved, and therefore no politician will. The only one who ever DOES suggest a draft is Charles Rangel, and that’s to make an antiwar point.

          12. I actually take some hope in what you say.Maybe this unwillingness to participate in unprovoked endless wars will be more successful than reinstating the draft in ending this insanity.In any case there can be no doubt that the rest of the world is pretty much fed up with the neo’s in DC and their wars for oil and other resources.And empires never last forever:

  2. Compulsory military service is a great idea.Might make people think more about supporting our insane foreign policy

        1. I’m not sure I understand. If you’re suggesting that I’m career military, no, I am not. I got out of the Marine Corps in 1995, long short of “lifer” or retirement.

          1. Sorry for that comment.I guess that I tire of hearing retired military folks praise this insane interventionist foreign policy that’s bankrupting this nation and killing so many innocents including our young people.I support a military draft because it might make the mindless sheep think a bit if they were to face a reality of having their young sacrificed to the banksters’ meatgrinder.General Smedly Butler was so right-on.

          2. Draftees are not given the choice to think or to choose. These are not the options allowed a slave.

            Supporter of slavery = career “useful idiot”.

          3. Same is true of all military recruits.You need to read Butler’s treatise on war.If you support our foreign policy,you are a supporter of slavery.

          4. A person who ‘chooses’ to support an evil imperial hegemony over the unwilling and the innocent (i.e. 21st century american foreign policy) may be a fool but he isn’t a “slave”. To support the enslavement of the unwilling to serve that evil end is to be the quintessential ‘dupe’ or ‘useful idiot’ in the promotion of that end. If you support military enslavement then you support, enhance and enable the tool that implements that imperial policy. This is bad enough, but it is then compounded by the debasement of the personal freedom of those enslaved; a perversion in the service of an obscenity.

          5. Can’t believe you would say that in light of the reality of our foreign policy and military budget.War is our leading export and our wars are largely unprovoked.Trump has even suggested invading Venezuela,one of his more insane ideas.
            Just how do you evade paying taxes to an evil imperial hegemon?

          6. “A person who ‘chooses’ to support an evil imperial hegemony…”

            The subject in question was involuntary enslavement in the military. My statement was in reference to those who voluntarily join the military when it has been clear for a long,long time that the purpose they will be employed in is the aggressive (not defensive) and arrogant unilateral adventuring of the american imperial State. There are, regrettably, more than enough people that will volunteer for this criminal work without compounding the error by forcibly enslaving others into performing that task.

          7. I understood that.I really do not support the draft any more than you do.My belief is that reinstatement of the draft might shake the masses of hived,somnolent Americans out of their stuporous blind support of the psychopaths in DC(District of Corruption)

          8. I understood that.I really do not support the draft any more than you do.My belief is that reinstatement of the draft might shake the hived,somnolent Americans out of their blind support for the corrupt psychopaths in DC.I think the draft would galvanize many of our youths into a real antiwar movement as in the 50’s

          9. I agree that Butler was right on, and you’ll never see me supporting an interventionist foreign policy.

            I understand that some people think a universal draft would reduce the likelihood of war. I disagree, but that’s arguable.

            Chattel enslavement facilitated the profitability of farming cotton. And it was just as wrong as military enslavement. The fact that something can have this or that practical positive effect doesn’t make it moral.

          10. I couldn’t agree more.Majority of our wars are immoral,thus we have iintroduced the bogus concept of the “humanitarian war”.Our war crimes are legion.You should research results of our use of DU in our war in Iraq.Agent Orange.Liquid phosphorus.Drone war victims.Aiding the Saudis in attacking Yemen.Aiding the Israelis in their war on Gaza.Ad infinitum

          11. Not true. The draft is what kept Vietnam going. Today there is no draft so it is more problematic for the DoD, if no one joins, what can they do. The reason for not having a draft is that it is virtually impossible to enforce and now that women are part of the equation (if not the courts would shut it down), no one wants it.

  3. Forget the Draft, Make everyone serve 6 Years, and Give everyone the GI Bill, and VA Healthcare, Put Most of them on the Border, with a tent, and MRE’s .

  4. I Do Not have a Problem with our vets getting VA healthcare or The GI Bill, But I do NOT think those that Just want healthcare and Education Assistance should get it…..
    Serve, and earn it!

  5. Either abolish selective services or expand the requirement to women. With all of the breaking down of gender barriers & increasing rejection of repressive traditional gender roles, selective sevices has to either be abolished or be expanded to require women. Or you’re a sexist that clings to the idea of imposed traditional gender roles, toxic masculinity & male supremacy over women.

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