Friday, 16 February 2018

Public hearings and written comments on draft registration

We are your children. Support draft resistance.
[Poster by James Groleau, 1981. More draft resistance graphics.]

For the first time in decades, a Federal commission is holding open-mike public hearings throughout the USA (starting next Friday, 23 February 2018, in Harrisburg, PA) and taking written testimony (through 19 April 2018, Patriots’ Day) on whether draft registration should be ended or extended to women as well as men; whether there should be a draft of people with medical or other special skills regardless of age or gender; whether a draft would be “feasible” (it wouldn’t, because so many people haven’t registered with the Selective Service System, have moved without notifying the SSS, and/or would resist if drafted); and related issues.

Despite some problems, this is by far your best and most open opportunity in decades to tell the Federal government to end draft registration. Read more for background on the National Commission on Military, National, and National Service and an update with the schedule of dates and locations of hearings through September 2018.

The Commission wants to know what we think about the draft, draft registration, andr compulsory national “service”.

I think the most important thing for the Commission to hear is that people subject to draft registration, and people who would be subject to a draft (including older health care workers and people with other specialized skills who might be subject to an expanded draft) would refuse to go, and that other people would support them in their resistance.

Whether or not the Commission agrees with the reasons people don’t and won’t comply with registration or a draft, the Commission needs to be brought to realize that a draft is not “feasible” because so many people would not comply, and because noncompliance would render it unenforceable. The Commission to recommend that Congress enact legislation to end draft registration and abolish the Selective Service System.

That’s the lesson of the last 38 years of failure of draft registration. We need to teach that lesson to the National Commission on Service.

The Commission needs to hear from men who didn’t register for the draft when they were supposed to do so, men who registered but have moved without telling the Selective Service System their new address, men who are registered but would refuse to go if they were drafted, parents who would tear up any induction order that came for their son or daughter (shifting the risk of prosecution from their children to themselves), and women who would refuse to sign up if draft registration is extended to women.

The Commission is also supposed to report on, “the feasibility… of modifying the military selective service process in order to obtain for military, national, and public service individuals with skills (such as medical, dental, and nursing skills, language skills, cyber skills, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills) for which the Nation has a critical need, without regard to age or sex.” So the Commission needs to hear from people in all of these occupational categories who would refuse to be drafted.

The inquiring minds of the Commission also “want to know what the government could do to encourage “service”. Here are some talking points about that:

  • “Compulsory service” is, by definition, slavery. If you want to encourage any positive definition of service, it must be voluntary, and completely separate from any system of conscription. You cannot have a system that serves both conscription and positive “service”.

  • “Military service” is service to the cause of war. If you want to encourage any positive notion of “service”, you need to separate it completely from military recruiting or incentives for military enlistment.

  • People can best “serve” by making their own choices. “Service” should not be limited to options approved by the government for nonprofit status.

  • The greatest limitation on the ability to “serve” is student debt that forces people to seek higher-paying jobs. This is the new form of the “channeling” of young people’s choices by the Selective Service System. The best way to enable more people to “serve” is to free them from student and vocational-training debt by recognizing education as a human right and shifting funding for education and job training from loans to grants.

In late 2015, Commander-In-Chief Obama ordered all military assignments opened to women. That order undercut, and probably eliminated, the legal argument that had been used since 1980 to justify requiring only men, but not women, to register for the draft.

That gave members of Congress three options, none of which most of them wanted to take responsibility for, in the run-up to the 2016 elections:

  1. Do nothing and wait for courts to invalidate the requirement for men to register for the draft;
  2. Repeal the requirement for men to register, and abolish the Selective Service System (and risk being attacked as peaceniks); or
  3. Extend the requirement to register for the draft to women as well as men (and risk being attacked by both feminists and sexists).

After elaborate bi-partisan machinations, Congress chose Door Number One (“Do Nothing”). Perhaps members of Congress thought that would allow them to point the finger of “blame” at the courts, and away from themselves, if draft registration was ended. More likely they just wanted to punt this political hot potato past the 2016 elections into the Clinton or Trump Administration.

To provide further political cover for delaying its decision, Congress voted in late 2016 to establish. a National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service “to conduct a review of the military selective service process (commonly referred to as ‘the draft’).” The Commission is required to solicit and consider public comments, and to report back to the President and Congress with its recommendations by March 2020 (at which time its recommendations can either be ignored, used, or abused to score points in 2020 election campaigns).

That Commission has now been “appointed and held “its first public meeting on 18 January 2018.

Today the Commission published:

  • A notice in the Federal Register soliciting written comments (by a “Web form or by e-mail to, mentioning “Docket No. 05-2018-01” in the subject line of the message) though 19 April 2018; and
  • An “announcement on the Commission’s Web site of a first public hearing, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. next Friday, 23 February 2018, at the Harrisburg Area Community College, Midtown Trade and Technology Center, Midtown 2, Room 206, 1500 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg, PA.

Update: An announcement published in the Federal Register on 20 April 2018 extended the deadline for written comments through 30 September 2018 and announced a new alternate e-mail address than can also be used to submit comments, (mentioning “Docket No. 05-2018-01” in the subject line of your e-mail message). Comments can also still be submitted to the original .mil e-mail address, or through the Web form.

Pass the word to any of your contacts who might be able to make it to Harrisburg that day, or to any of the other hearings.

It’s unclear how the Commission’s hearings will be conducted. So far as I can tell from the “announcement it appears that at least the first hearing will be a first-come, first-served, open microphone event, although I have no idea how much time each speaker will be allowed.

The law establishing the Commission requires that:

The Commission shall conduct hearings on the recommendations it is taking under consideration. Any such hearing, except a hearing in which classified information is to be considered, shall be open to the public. Any hearing open to the public shall be announced on a Federal website at least 14 days in advance. For all hearings open to the public, the Commission shall release an agenda and a listing of materials relevant to the topics to be discussed.

The Commission’s first planned hearing in Harrisburg, PA, on 23 February 2018, was “announced on the Commission’s Web site on February 16th, only seven days in advance. The Commission appears to be in flagrant violation of the statutory requirement for 14 days’ notice, and the hearing in Harrisburg, if it is held on February 23rd, will be unlawful. As of a week before the planned hearing, no agenda has been released.

Members of the Commission have said it plans to hold public hearings in each of the nine US Census regions over the next two years.

Updates: The Commission’s schedule of public hearings and site visits for 2018, as announced 13 April 2018:

Follow the links from the dates above, and check the Commission’s Web site here, for more information on local events as they are organized. If you would like to be listed as a contact in any of these areas for those interested in attending and testifying at one of these hearings, or organizing other related activities, please let me and/or Matt Nicodemus (phone 720-979-9967, know.

The Commision has belatedly established Freedom Of Information Act procedures, and I’ve made a FOIA request (the first such request made to the Commission) for records of the Commission’s past meetings and its schedule of planned future meetings. Records I have received in response to this request are posted here.

Link | Posted by Edward on Friday, 16 February 2018, 20:26 ( 8:26 PM)

Campaign To Abolish The Draft

Began a walk in front of Woodrow Wilson Library and birthplace in Staunton, Virginia on June 5, 2012, to Washington D.C. to Philadelphia, PA, to the Internation Peace Museum in Dayton, Ohio calling for a Constitutional Amendment to Abolish The Draft. In March 2013 went to India and walked the Gandhi Salt March for the cause to Abolish The Draft. Afterwards went to Canada and walked from Ottawa, Ontario Canada to Toronto to thank Canada for receiving men and women who were against the Draft during the Vietnam War.

Posted by: Jesse-Blue Forrest, 17 February 2018, 00:06 (12:06 AM)

The Jewish Peace Fellowship, founded in 1941, is opposed to draft registration of men and women and is also opposed to a draft.

Posted by: Murray Polner, 17 February 2018, 08:41 ( 8:41 AM)

Want to make a correction in my statement above: I started out a walk from Ottawa to Toronto but could not complete the walk because of a old foot injury that came back.....

People's Campaign to Abolish The Draft is opposed to draft registration and the draft. Believes there needs to be a Constitutional amendment to end this evil institution for future generation....

Posted by: Jesse-Blue Forrest, 17 February 2018, 10:09 (10:09 AM)

Podcast (35 min.): The Future of Draft Registration in the U.S. (Courage to Resist, 22 February 2018):

Tell the Feds: End Draft Registration (Courage to Resist, 23 February 2018):

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 25 February 2018, 03:51 ( 3:51 AM)

After I submitted a query through the Commission Web site, a staff person for the Commission eventually contacted me. They told me that during 2018 the Commission would conduct an informal listening tour. After drafting and publication for comment of draft recommendations, the Commission plans a second round of formal hearings in 2019 to hear feedback on ots draft recommendations.

Bill Galvin of the Center on Conscience and War, who attended and spoke at the Commission's first public open-mike event in Harrisburg, reports that the following states were announced as planned locations for Commission "listening sessions" through the end of 2018: Tennessee, Florida, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Texas, and California. But no additional details or schedule were provided.

The petition against draft registration or a draft for women or men started by draft-age women in 2016 is still open for signatures, with more than 25,000 to date:

I expect that these petitions will be presented to the Commission as well as to Congress.

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 8 March 2018, 10:20 (10:20 AM)

The second public hearing by the National Commisison on Selective Service will be in Denver, CO, on Thursday, 19 April 2018, from 3-5 p.m.


Written comments to the commission are due the same day as the Denver hearing, 19 April 2018.

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 6 April 2018, 08:36 ( 8:36 AM)

My written testimony to the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service:

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 12 April 2018, 11:30 (11:30 AM)

Testimony and reports from the hearing in Denver:

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 21 April 2018, 07:03 ( 7:03 AM)

Hearings of National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (World Beyond War):

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 24 April 2018, 12:22 (12:22 PM)

Abolish Selective Service Draft and institute Universal Service Draft.

Posted by: Albert Sargis, 30 April 2018, 16:26 ( 4:26 PM)

"Public Forum on Draft Registration, May 9 @ 5:45 pm - 7:45 pm" (Mass. Peace Action):

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 1 May 2018, 10:49 (10:49 AM)

The Commission has (belatedly) promulgated its Freedom Of Information Act regulations and procedures:

I have made a FOIA request for records of past meetings and schedules of future meetings of the Commission.

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 7 May 2018, 05:52 ( 5:52 AM)

     I am a 24-year-old transgender nonbinary individual born biologically male. I reside in the Portland metro area here in Oregon. I am living at home with family, who is low-income, so I have limited sources when it comes to vocational opportunities.
     About six years ago, when I graduated high school and attempted to get federal student aid through the FAFSA web-site, I was informed by a community college financial aid office that I wouldn’t be able to make progress until I had registered with selective service. At that time, I didn’t know what selective service was, so I researched it. I learned that it was a disguise to obligate either all male-identified individuals, or individuals who were born and assigned male at birth and assigned male by the federal government to be drafted into the army. I started coming out as transgender in 2013, and, by that time, I started objecting in fulfilling this requirement.
 I am also totally blind and hard-of-hearing. Since I joined the vocational rehabilitation agency, I felt that I was being pressured by them to attend college. I felt that they were wanting me to take bigger steps that I wasn't ready to take. So, with reluctance, I did, for a few terms just to oblige them. I learned that even if you have a disability, you cannot waive the requirement to sign up for selective service.
     Although there hasn’t been a draft since the Vietnam war, it is absurd that the United States still mandates all male-identified or biological males to sign up and go through this nuisance. In 2016, I came out to my vocational rehabilitation counsellor, and I gave them specific reasons why I refused to use financial aid. I decided, from this point forward, that I would boycott financial aid until they either A. Eliminate selective service altogether, or B. Require that everyone sign up, no matter what sex or gender they were.
 The problem is that the federal government is still based on the gender binary. Oregon,  and probably Washington, are two of the first states to legally recognise gender non-binary individuals. I changed my gender on my new state ID card to reflect this new law. The other problem is that this society, like most societies, is male-dominated, especially by cisgender heterosexual males, which means that this is probably going to be a little more hard to fight.
     I'd like to organise a federal class action suit against whoever is responsible for maintaining selective service, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign, Transgender Law Centre, and Lambda Legal, plus any other LGBTQIA civil rights organisation interested in helping out. We could also try and use the media to pressure the legislature to do something about it.
 One of the members of the National Centre for Transgender and Intersex equality told the Portland Community College queer resource centre a year ago was that there have been some effort to eliminate this, but as congress moves very slowly, it is unclear what the future will hold. They might either eliminate it, or expand the registration to females. I had a conversation with one of their policy advocates last month but their only response was that Congress was not willing to change this. I decided that if they weren't going to change this policy, we would have to make them.
     If we were to challenge this with any federal court, I’d like to argue that selecting, picking out, or subjecting a specific group of individuals on the basis of sex constitutes as discrimination, which, in many jurisdictions, is illegal. They should've thought of that when Congress came out with this policy.
 Here's an example: although this might mean well, the other side might have a valid argument. A customer went into a public space such as a restaurant, and they met somebody from Asia. That person wasn’t educated on how to treat a transgender person, and continuously called that customer by the wrong title or pronouns, even after being asked and told to stop multiple times. If the customer wanted to say that this employee needed additional training because they were not from the US, that could be considered discriminatory on the basis of national origin because said customer would be suggesting that, based on the fact that this person didn't know English, and didn't know our law, they should get differential treatment. This sort of applies to this situation here.
  I think some effort should be made, as an organisation, to litigate especially since the supreme court did rule in favour of same sex marriage in 2016, and judges have blocked Trump’s attempts to block transgender service members from joining the military.
    If we can change this for future LGBTQIA community, I would like to be one of the first to help make change to allow transgender individuals, especially those assigned male at birth, to attend the college of their choice and receive financial student aid, if they can't afford paying for college, without having to worry that they will have to sign up for selective service simply because they were born or perceived as male.
 I had a great chance to go to college and pursue a career in biotechnology to help develop new methods for transgender reproduction and reassignment, but because of this unequal treatment, all of my plans came to naught. I don't want others in my position to experience what I went through.
 Also, I'd like to see individuals wanting to work for the federal government, like at a post office or social security, to not be forced to register simply because they were perceived as male, or somehow get assurance that everyone would now be required to sign up for selective service. If jury duty does not discriminate on the basis of sex or gender, Selective Service ought to be the same.
 If there is anything your organisation can do, please let me know.

Posted by: Ulysses Harmony Garcia, 27 June 2018, 17:23 ( 5:23 PM)
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