Congress May Act Soon on Selective Service

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress could soon consider whether to end Selective Service registration or try to expand it to women. It’s critically important to opponents of the draft and war to (1) contact your Representative and Senators and (2) educate, agitate, and organize now to finalize the victory of decades of resistance to draft registration.

Here’s a leaflet about what’s happening: and some things you can do today. CODEPINK is hosting a webinar, Draft Women? Hell No!, on Tuesday, May 26th, 8-9 p.m. EDT, and is also part of this podcast on women and the draft produced by Courage To Resist. Speakers are available for groups or classes.

Almost all Congressional business not related to the pandemic has been sidelined since the release of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (NCMNPS) report in late March, which recommended that Congress expand draft registration to women. (Details of recommendations.)

Separate bills are now pending in Congress to end draft registration and abolish the Selective Service System (H.R. 5492) or to implement the NCMNPS recommendations including requiring women to register for the draft (H.R. 6415). No action on either of these bills is likely any time soon.

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National Commission Recommends Extending Draft Registration to Women

This morning the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (NCMNPS) released its final report, recommending that Congress amend the Military Selective Service Act to require that young women, as well as young men, register for the draft when they reach 18 years of age, and inform the Selective Service System each time they change their address until their 26th birthday.

In my testimony to the NCMNPS in April 2019, I told the Commissioners:

Any proposal that includes a compulsory element is a naïve fantasy unless it includes a credible enforcement plan and budget…. How much are you prepared to spend, and how much of a police state are you prepared to set up, to round up the millions of current draft registration law violators or enforce a draft?

The Commission’s recommendations with respect to Selective Service registration are just such a naïve fantasy, completely unfeasible and with no foundation in research or reality. The Commission kept its head firmly in the sand, carefully avoiding any inquiry into whether or how the current (unenforced and widely violated) registration requirement for men, much less an expanded registration requirement applicable also to women, could be enforced.

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Major Announcement Due This Week on the Military Draft

Anonymous stenciling found on sidewalks outside entrances to Selective Service System headquarters on the day of a nonviolent antidraft blockade of the SSS, October 18, 1982

This week the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (NCMNPS) plans to release its final report including recommendations to Congress on whether Selective Service registration should be ended or extended to young women as well as young men.

Whatever the NCMNPS recommends, the release of its report is unlikely to get much attention this week in the news or from Congress. But it will be one of the most significant events in decades in relation to military conscription, setting the stage for a Congressional debate about the future of the Selective Service System that can no longer be postponed indefinitely in light of ongoing court cases, and that is likely to occur sometime in the next year or so.

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Anti-Draft Activists Call on Congress To End Draft Registration

As Congress prepares to debate the issue of the military draft, anti-draft activists are calling on Congress to enact legislation to end draft registration entirely.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear argument March 3, 2020, in New Orleans in a case in which a Federal District Court judge has already ruled that the current requirement for men to register with the Selective Service System for a possible military draft is unconstitutional. The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (NCMNPS) will release its recommendations to Congress regarding the Selective Service System on March 25, 2020.

Both this court case and the report of the NCMNPS are likely to put increased pressure on Congress to choose whether to end draft registration for men, or to extend it to women.

Numerous anti-draft organizations have endorsed H.R. 5492, a bipartisan bill introduced in Congress (and submitted to the NCMNPS for it to consider) in December 2019.

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Bill Introduced To End Draft Registration

Thursday, just before Congress recessed until the new year, U.S. Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Rodney Davis (R-IL) introduced H.R. 5492, a bill “To repeal the Military Selective Service Act, and thereby terminate the registration requirements of such Act and eliminate … the Selective Service System.”

This bill is the most comprehensive anti-draft proposal introduced in Congress since the reinstatement of Selective Service registration in 1980.

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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).

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