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NCMNPS records released by the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA)

Records of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (NCMNPS) released by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) after the expiration of the NCMNPS

“When asked about the political feasibility of a large-scale mobilization, one SASC [Senate Armed Services Committee] staff member responded that SSS [Selective Service System] is kept around largely for political reasons, but no one realistically thinks it will be used…. He remarked that the draft is currently designed to replace large numbers of infantry overseas; however, such numbers are not likely to be needed in the future and the current lead time for training and skills development for various occupations needed to fight modern wars makes the SSS model less practical….

“Given the 2016 decision to open all military occupations and, from their perspective, the most realistic use of mobilization was more along the lines of a skills draft, minority [Democratic Party] staff expressed strongly that any update to SSS which did not include female registration would have little chance of passage.”

[Internal NCMNPS staff notes from meeting with Senate Armed Service Committee (SASC) staff, 1 October 2018, released by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) after the expiration of the NCMNPS]

The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (NCMNPS) dragged its feet for most of its existence in responding to my Freedom Of Information act (FOIA) requests, and released only a small fraction of the records I requested. In many cases, newly-created files containing only a portion of the information in NCMNPS records were substituted for the original files. Many records and portions of records were improperly withheld, often without explanation.

The NCMNPS ceased to exist as a Federal agency on 18 September 2020, when its statutory mandate expired, and legal custody and control of all of its remaining records (i.e. those it had not already managed to delete or destroy, legally or illegally) was transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

NARA has refused to do anything with the requests and appeals that I submitted to the NCMNPS (one of which the NCMNPS received but had taken no action on before its dissolution, and others of which had been only partially processed) before the NCMNPS was dissolved and its records were transferred to NARA.

So I had to start over from scratch with a new request to NARA on 21 September 2020, the first business day after NARA received possession and control of the records of the NCMNPS.

NARA “accepted” my request (not that the law gives an agency any discretion, but that’s what NARA has done) with respect to only a very small subset of the NCMNPS records that NCMNPS staff cherry-picked to be preserved as permanent, and to create the stage-managed historical record of the work of the NCMNPS.

NARA summarily denied my request for expedited processing and my appeal of that denial, and has told me that it expects to take at least 20 months to respond to portions of my request. NARA has, however, begun releasing some NCMNPS records. It’s not clear how these records have been selected or prioritized for release. Some of the first NCMNPS records released by NARA (including some of those that are most revealing) aren’t even among the records I requested from NARA. But they do include some records that were never disclosed by the NCMNPS, and that shed significant light on its operations, as discussed further below and on this page about the minutes of the closed door decision-making meetings of the NCMNPS.

One of the most important questions about the NCMNPS, which these records and others I have requested may help to answer, is whether the NCMNPS saw its mission as conducting independent research and putting forward its own recommendations, or as providing political cover to Congress by constructing stage-managed record supporting policies and legislative recommendations predetermined by the politicians who had appointed individual members of the NCMNPS.

The NCMNPS was created out of a 2016 House-Senate conference committee compromise that began with the Chair, ranking minority member, and staff of the Senate Armed Services Committtee (SASC). The NCMNPS appears to have maintained closer touch with the SASC staff than with House staff, members of the House or Senate, or any other entity outside the NCMNPS. From its first days to its last, the NCMNPS consulted the SASC to make sure that what the NCMNPS recommended would be what the SASC and other Senators and Representatives wanted to hear.

The NCMNPS claimed in its report that it received “4,300+” comments from the public. But NARA received (redacted) records from the NCMNPS of 19,181 comments. It appears that the NCMNPS tried to hide most of the comments from its report because they supported a policy option — ending draft registration entirely — that the NCMNPS had ruled out.

NCMNPS records released by NARA show that in October 2018, months before the NCMNPS scheduled or defined the topics for its public hearings, NCMNPS staff met with SASC staff to discuss what eventual recommendations by the NCMNPS would be politically acceptable to both Republican (majority) and Democratic (minority) SASC members. According to the internal NCMNPS staff notes from that meeting, as quoted at the top of this page, NCMNPS staff were told that :

  1. “SSS [Selective Service System] is kept around largely for political reasons, but no one realistically thinks it will be used;” and
  2. “[M]inority [Democratic Party] staff expressed strongly that any update to SSS which did not include female registration would have little chance of passage.”

The NCMNPS appears to have been driven by these political marching orders, rather than by starting-from-scratch-without-preconceptions research and analysis.

Despite having being told that the Selective Service System exists for political reasons, and not because it serves any actual or perceived military need, the NCMNPS went to great lengths to make up some other, pretextual, national security” justification for preserving the SSS and continuing draft registration. The lengths to which they had to go to come up with scenarios in which a draft based on the current registration list would be “needed” were apparent during one of their public hearings, when NCMNPS Chair, Army Reserve Brigadier General, and former Nevada Republican member of Congress Joe Heck asked each member of the panel of witnesses I was on:

“I want to pose a hypothetical scenario and ask your response. So… we’re in a Red Dawn scenario where we are being attacked through both Canada and Mexico. There is no Selective Service System. The All-Volunteer Force is insufficient. There’s been a Presidential/Congressional call for volunteers, for people to step up. However, the response has not been enough to meet the threat, the actual threat to our homeland; not an overseas operation.How would you propose to meet the demand?”

Congress and the public need to recognize that it’s this sort of fantasy, not reality, that underlies the claim that draft registration might be “needed”. No NCMNPS analysis or research positing a more plausible hypothetical scenario for a general call-up has been disclosed — nor is there any reason to think it exists.

The NCMNPS recommended that draft registration be expanded to women. But a document prepared by the NCMNPS research staff explaining the basis for NCMNPS estimates of the cost of implementing its recommendations confirms that no consideration was given to the costs of enforcing a new requirement for women to register for the draft.

The NCMNPS pretended to seek “input” from the public into its decision as to whether to try to expand draft registration to women. But the first priority for the NCMNPS was to craft a bi-partisan report that would be acceptable to, and serve the pre-existing agendas of, members of the House and Senate from both the Republican and Democratic Parties. The NCMNPS was told early on that unless they recommended expanding Selective Service registration to women, any set of recommendations with respect to Selective Service would be a political non-state. The list of possible recommendations on which they sought input, after many of their recommendations had already been determined, from the Department of Defense, may be a better guide to which options the NCMNPS took seriously than the questions they posed to the general public.

Here are the questions and policy options with respect to Selective Service that were put to a vote of the NCMNPS at its VOTE-O-RAMA, 15-19 July 2019. The vote counts have not been made public. We can tell the outcome of the voting only from the contents of the final NCMNPS report:

The NCMNPS had already voted to recommend continuing draft registration and expanding it to women months before its one conference call with anti-draft organizations and activists. A recommendation for mandatory national service remained under consideration until the July 2019 VOTE-O-RAMA.

The law authorizing and creating the NCMNPS required the NCMNPS to publish its final report and recommendations “on an Internet website available to the public on the same date on which it transmits that report to the President and Congress”. But two months before releasing its report and recommendations to the public, NCMNPS staff gave a secret briefing to the staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee, “to provide detailed information about the recommendations that will appear in the Final Report, with an emphasis on legislative proposals that may be appropriate for the FY21 NDAA.” That might not violate the letter of the law authorizing the NCMNPS, but it certainly violates what appears to be its intent that Congress and the public be notified of the NCMNPS recommendations on the same day. The NDAA is the annual National Defense Authorization Act. It now appears that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCMNPS recommendations, or alternate legislative proposals, won’t be considered until the Fiscal Year 2022 NDAA, expected to be enacted sometime in calendar year 2021.

Final messages to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from her appointee to the NCMNPS, former Selective Service System Director of Operations Edward Allard, and from the Chair and Vice-Chair of the NCMNPS to the majority and minority Senate Artmed Services Committeee staff, stressed that former members of the NCMNPS will remain available, after the expiration of the NCMNPS, to testify to Congress in support of their recommendations. But full and fair hearings on what to do about the Selective service Ssystem will need to include witnesses for opposung points of view, incluidng critics of the NCMNPS and its credibility, and will need to fully consider the options the NCMNPS didn’t consider, including ending Selective Service registration entirely.

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This page most recently modified 17 November 2021. This site is maintained by Edward Hasbrouck. Corrections, contributions (articles, graphics, photos, videos, links, etc.), and feedback are welcomed.