NPR: ‘Selective Service Registration Comes Under Fire Again’

Brigadier General Joe Heck, Chairman of the NCMNPS, and Vice-Chair Debra Wada listen to testimony by Don Benton, Director of the Selective Service System, at a hearing in Washington on April 24, 2019. Photo by Edward Hasbrouck.

NPR’s Morning Edition today includes a report by David Welna, possibly the only journalist who sat through all of the two days of hearings on Selective Service at which I testified last month before the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, “Selective Service registration comes under fire again."

The NPR story highlights the lack of updates to addresses in the Selective Service System database, and the key testimony by Bernie Rostker, former Director of the SSS, that the current registration database is so inaccurate as to be “worse than useless."

Today’s NPR story is the first mainstream news report on Rostker’s testimony, accuracy of the SSS database, or whether a draft based on the current system would be possible (regardless of whether it is regarded as desirable or who supports or opposes it on political or ideological grounds).

The NPR story leads with a brief excerpt from an interview with me during a recess in the hearings, mentioning the role of Robert Mueller. At least 90% of the Federal prosecutors to whom cases against draft registration resisters were referred in the 1980s, even during the brief wave of show trials, declined to pursue them. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Mueller, for reasons know only to himself and his then-boss, US Attorney (later Governor of Massachusetts) William Weld, had me indicted in Boston in what became Mueller’s first high-profile case.

Although it wasn’t made public until after the April hearings, the NCMNPS also received a letter earlier in April 2019 from Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), who was one of the sponsors of a bill introduced in 2016 to repeal authority for draft registration. “I strongly urge members of this Commission to recommend disbanding the SSS altogether,” Rep. DeFazio wrote. The only other official submission to the NCMNPS from a member of Congress disclosed to date is from Re. Gwen Moore (D-WI), the sponsor of a bill introduced in 2017 to require the Selective Service System to allow registrants to indicate, at the time of registration, their intent to seek classification as conscientious objectors if and when they are ordered to report for induction into the military.

Former SSS Director Rostker’s recommendations make it more likely that the NCMNPS, forced to choose, will recommend ending draft registration, and that Congress might act on that recommendation. But the manner in which registration is ended, and the extent to which it will continue to have collateral consequences for nonregistrants, will depend on our anti-draft activism and lobbying.

It remains possible that Congress will choose to do nothing, and allow draft registration to be ended by court order, as the least politically risky of an array of unpalatable options with respect to Selective Service. As I noted in my testimony, “While I and other opponents of registration and the draft would welcome this outcome, it would… lead to expensive, confusing, and prolonged Federal and state litigation and uncertainty as to which administrative penalties would still apply to those who had previously not registered…. Congress [should] enact legislation for an orderly shutdown of the Selective Service System, expungement of registration records, repeal of Federal criminal and administrative sanctions for past nonregistration, and preemption of any state sanctions for nonregistration.”

Preemption of state sanctions against nonregistrants is the key element missing from all of the recent proposals for legislation to end draft registration, and is unlikely to be included in any new bill unless it becomes a focus of concerted lobbying, starting with the submission to the NCMNPS and Congress of model legislation including a provision preempting state sanctions for nonregistration.

The last chance for in-person submissions and verbal testimony before the NCMNPS will be at the Commission’s final public hearing at the FDR Presidential Library in Hyde Park, NY, on June 20, 2019. Written submissions by e-mail to “," mentioning “Docket No. 05-2018-01” in the subject line of your e-mail message, will be accepted through December 31, 2019.

Also in the news today is another episode in the continuing follies of the incompetent Trump political appointee currently in charge of the Selective Service System. Don Benton has a history as the laughingstock of the Washington state legislature, and the press back in his home turf have been keeping tabs on his bungling since he followed his hero Trump to DC.

Edward Hasbrouck maintains the website and was one of the expert witnesses invited to testify before the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.

7 thoughts on “NPR: ‘Selective Service Registration Comes Under Fire Again’”

  1. Thanks for the link to the Seattle Times piece on Benton. What a jackass. Openly declaring how proud he was that he was able to secure jobs for loyal (but massively underqualified) campaign staffers. That’s why Trump is so thin-skinned, surrounding himself with loyal toadies, he never hears a discouraging word.

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