The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service was created by Congress to consider and develop recommendations concerning the need for a military draft, and means by which to foster a greater attitude and ethos of service among American youth. Established on September 19, 2017, the Commission intends to issue its final report no later than March 2020 and conclude its work by September 2020. The Commission issued its mid-term report in January 2019, a link to which is here - https://www.inspire2serve.gov/reports/interim
Evidenced by Statute and Principles issued by the President, the Commission's mission is to listen to the public and learn from those who serve to recommend ideas to foster a greater ethos of military, national, and public service to strengthen American democracy. The Commission hopes to ignite a national conversation around service and, ultimately, develop recommendations that will encourage every American to be inspired and eager to serve.
The Commission is comprised of eleven commissioners who bring together diverse experiences from service in the military, public office, on Capitol Hill, and with not-for-profit organizations.
My testimony to the Commission on February 21, 2019 was the following:
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Commissioners –
Thank you for this opportunity to address the Commission. On January 14th this year, I had an op-ed published in the NY Daily News on my support for mandatory national service. It is something I feel very strongly about. I submitted a copy to the Commission at that time.
I’d like to split my comments today into two sections – one philosophical and the other practical.
Philosophically, there is nothing that unites Americans today – no shared common experience. To me that is a recipe for division and ultimately the fracturing of this country into several different entities. Demographic changes, if nothing else, will be the principal drivers of this fracturing. One way to forestall this development is to introduce a common shared experience – mandatory national service - the type of activity that has long been demonstrated to bring people together and expose more people to more opportunities.
On the practical side with regard to program specifics:
--one to two years of service between the ages of 18 and 28 will provide flexibility for all participants to select the timeframe that best meets their circumstances.
--to address the question of “what’s in it for me?”, I believe all participants should be eligible for benefits to help with education and other expenses, similar to the GI Bill
--implementing a program of this size would probably best be accomplished over a period of years to allow for periodic reviews and adjustments; President Kennedy – who famously encouraged Americans to serve their country - also proposed the extraordinary challenge of putting a man on the moon. He allowed for nearly a decade to achieve this, with numerous milestones to be met along the way. This program could also be structured that way.
--Mandatory service would be a public/private partnership. Corporate America should be asked to fund the majority of the costs, to be administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The corporate world benefits greatly by investing in the future consumers, employees and leaders of this country. Many corporations already contribute to service programs, as we heard this morning from IBM. Retired baby boomers could serve as valuable mentors to program participants.
Regarding challenges and objections, I believe none are insurmountable.
**(In the interests of time, I left out the following during my comments:
--constitutional challenges will arise, but the record suggests that a service requirement will not be found unconstitutional
--in addition, “volunteerism” will not be devalued by a mandatory national service program, particularly at the state and local level. There will remain ample opportunities for citizens to volunteer outside the program, either before or after the mandatory period of service.)**
--Mandatory national service is not a panacea, but it has the power to be transformational. We need to think big and plan long-term to help bring us together as a nation as we face the challenges ahead. I believe mandatory national service will move us in that direction.
Thank you very much.
Additional information on the work of the Commission can be found at www.inspire2serve.gov