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Records of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (NCMNPS)

NCMNPS records released in response to my FOIA requests

(more about the NCMNPS)

Federal advisory committees are required to deliberate in a fish bowl, but the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (NCMNPS) was created as an "independent agency" with its members as minimally-paid part-time Federal employees, rather than an advisory committee. This allows the Commission to carry our many of its activities behind closed doors, and it appears to be intent on doing so to the maximum extent allowed by law. The Commission's records are subject to the Freedom Of Information Act, although with the usual exemptions in that law. I have made FOIA requests for the Commission's records of its meetings and events, and I plan to make follow-up requests periodically for newly-created records.

Those few meetings the Commission has chosen to designate as "public" have been open and informal, as noted above, although the extremely short notice given to the public about the locations and times of these events has made it extremely difficult for interested members of the public from outside these few sites to arrange to attend. The Commission has provided as little information as the law allows (or less than that) about all of the rest of its activities, including who it has met with behind closed doors, what briefings it has requested and received, and the research it has commissioned.

The Business Rules approved by the Commission in April 2018 provide that, "Minutes shall be made available to the public on the Commission's website to the extent such minutes or portions thereof would be releasable under the Freedom of Information Act." Although some redacted summary minutes have been released in response to my FOIA request, as posted and linked below, none of them were posted on the Commission's Web site until 1 October 2018 -- the day after the deadline for responses to the Commission's request for public comments, and the day after the last of a series of complaints I made to Commission staff about their failure to carry out the Commission's directive to make the redacted minutes available on the Commission's Web site..

The Commission has asserted that notes of Commission meetings kept by members or staff of the Commission are not "records" subject to FOIA. Contrary to guidance from the National Archives to the heads of all Federal agencies that, "Content on social media is likely a Federal record," the Commission initially asserted that none of the text, audio, or video files it has uploaded to official Commission accounts on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms were "records" subject to FOIA. The Commission has released some image files that were used to create its social media posts, but has separated them from captions or other associated text.

At one of its first meetings, in November 2017, the Commission received an extensive briefing from the Director and other senior staff of the Selective Service System. The slides from this briefing (first disclosed four months after my FOIA request, and ten months after the meeting, on 14 September 2018), include a summary (see Slide 6) of Selective Service System contingency plans for registering women for a possible military draft:

SSS contingency plans to register women for the draft

Tellingly, the budget estimate for registering women does not include any enforcement costs. There is no record of any consideration by the Commission, or any report or briefing to the Commission, with respect to enforcement or enforceability of either the current registration requirement or any expanded registration, military draft, or compulsory "service" scheme. None of the minutes of NCMNPS meetings incicate any meeting with the Department of Justice (DOJ), which is the department reponsible for enforcement of the Military Selective Service Act. In response to my FOIA request for records of communications between the NCMNPS and the DOJ, the NCMNPS said it found only one record provided by the DOJ to the NCMNPS, a report which noted that the DOJ receives more than a hundred thousand names a year of possible nonregistrants form the Slective service System, but said nothing about what the DOJ does with these names or about any other enforcement activities or plans.

No Commission records have yet been disclosed regarding contingency plans for a "special skills" draft, beyond the contingency plans in place for many years for the Health Care Personnel Delivery System.

All of the recommendations to the Commission by the Department of Defense with respect to the Selective Service System were redacted from the record of the DOD briefing (see Slide 33) released to me, at the request of the Department of Defense:

redacted slide from DOD briefing

Records of other briefings provided to the Commission are still being withheld in their entirety pending "consultations" with the Department of Defense.

Records of some meetings mentioned in these files have been withheld without explanation. For example, one of the participants in an invitation-only roundtable at Harvard University on 11 May 2018 "referenced the robust discussion about mandatory national service that he had participated in with the Commission earlier in the week", according to notes taken by a member of the Commission staff. But that discussion of mandatory national service is not mentioned in the agenda or minutes for the Commission's activites that week, and no records of that discussion have been disclosed.

The Commission has claimed that pursuant to the Privacy Act, the names of those who submitted public comments to the Commission cannot be dicclosed without their permission, and that it will take the Commisison's staff more than a year, until December 2019, to redact personally indentifying information before releasing those comments. Hovever, the comment submission page on the Commission's Web site says that, "Please note that any information you provide on this comment form could be publicly disclosed." In addition, if the Commission really thought that comments submitted by the public constituted a system of records subject to the Privacy Act, the Commnision would have been required to publish a "System Of Records Notice" (SORN) in the Federal Register, which it hasn't done. Maintaining a system of records containing personal information without first publishing such a SORN would be a Federal crime on the part of the responsible Commission officials. Either Commission staff didn't really think that public comments constituted a system of records (and only made this claim up after the fact as a pretext to delay disclosing the public comments, which likely show overwhelming opposition to conscription), or they were committing what they believed was a criminal violation of the Privacy Act.

Records below are either as released by the Commission in response to my FOIA request, or from other government agencies or sources. Most of the files provided to me, as linked below, appear from internal metadata to be newly-created files imporperly subsituted for the responsive records originally created and maintained by the Commission. Other discrepancies such as missing files and redactions not supported by exemption claims are noted below. Records acknowledged by the Commission to exist, but withheld as exempted from release in response to a FOIA request, or not yet released pending consultation with other agencies, are listed below with the FOIA exemption or consultation claimed by the Commission as the basis for not (yet) having released them.

NCMNPS Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regulations, request, correspondence, and interim partial responses:

Legal background to the NCMNPS:

NCMNPS meetings and events:

(For convenience, I have organized these by meeting and date, bringing together information about each meeting from all available sources. The links below include records released in response to my FOIA requests; copies of testimony and written statements obtained at NCMNPS public events; independent reports, analysis and commentary on these events; and records that have been identified as responsive to my FOIA request, but not yet released, either because they have been withheld as exempt or because they are still being "processed" for release or partial release in redacted form. The Commission has posted some of its records on its own site, and others on various other sites including Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and Eventbrite. Other records including most of those listed below have only been disclosed in response to my FOIA request and are only available here. I've tried to link to the best available copy of each item. Note that many announcements made at the time only to selected invitees have been posted by the NCMNPS on its Web site in response to my FOIA request, months after the fact but with false and misleading backdated posting dates, so as to imply that the Commision had been more transparent at the time about its activities and plans than was actually the case. And in some of the copies of press releases that were disclosed to me, the Commission redacted the names and contact information of its "public" spokespeople!)

        1. September 2017 NCMNPS meetings (The Pentagon, Arlington, VA):
        2. October 2017 NCMNPS meetings (Commission offices, Arlington, VA):
          • October 2017 Agenda
          • October 2017 Minutes
          • Draft business rules (withheld - FOIA Exemption 5)
          • Presentation on Operational Support ( (withheld - FOIA Exemption 2)
          • Handout on Media Coverage of First Press Release (withheld - FOIA Exemption 5)
          • Short list of candidates for DRA and DGPE positions (withheld - FOIA Exemption 5)
        3. November 2017 NCMNPS meetings (Commission offices, Arlington, VA):
        4. December 2017 NCMNPS meetings (unspecified "offsite location", Arlington, VA):
        5. January 2018 NCMNPS meetings (Washington, DC, and Arlington, VA):
          • Public launch event (Washington, DC, 18 Januray 2018):
          • Closed meetings (Arlington, VA):
            • January 2018 Agenda
            • January 2018 Minutes
            • Presentation on Operations Support (withheld - FOIA Exemption 2)
            • Media and Message Coaching presentation (withheld - FOIA Exemption 4)
            • Launch Talking Points and top-line messaging (withheld - FOIA Exemption 5)
            • Ethics handout on Social Media (withheld - FOIA Exemption 5)
            • Draft Research Plan (withheld - FOIA Exemption 5)
        6. February 2018 NCMNPS meetings (Harrisburg and Carlisle, PA):
        7. March 2018 NCMNPS meetings (Arlington, VA):
        8. April 2018 NCMNPS meetings (Denver and Colorado Springs, CO):
        9. May 2018 NCMNPS meetings, part 1 (New England):
        10. May 2018 NCMNPS meetings, part 2 (Jacksonville, FL):
        11. June 2018 NCMNPS meetings, part 1 (Arlington, VA):
        12. June 2018 NCMNPS meetings, part 2 (Iowa):
          • Public Meeting, Vinton, IA (26 June 2018):
          • Closed meetings and site visits in Vinton and Iowa City, IA:
            • Iowa Trip agenda
            • Area Maps
            • Iowa City One pager
            • Vinton Overview
            • AmeriCorps NCCC overview
            • No meeting minutes (meeting minutes were listed on initial FOIA response cover letter, but do not exist per follow-up message)
            • Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram posts (neither released nor claimed as exempt; see FOIA response letter)
            • Briefer - NCCC round table discussion: The impact of national service on rural communities (pending FOIA processing)
            • Briefer - Lunch with NCCC corps members (pending FOIA processing)
            • Briefer - NCCC round table discussion: Making national service efficient (pending FOIA processing)
            • Briefer - Community organizations meeting (pending FOIA processing)
            • Briefer - Civilian worker meeting (pending FOIA processing)
            • Briefer - National Guard readiness center (pending FOIA processing)
            • MFR - NCCC panel on the impact of service (pending FOIA processing)
            • MFR - NCCC panel on efficiencies (pending FOIA processing)
            • MFR - Civilian worker (pending FOIA processing)
            • MFR - Iowa Air National Guard members (pending FOIA processing)
            • MFR - Iowa Air National Guard recruiters (pending FOIA processing)
            • MFR - Community Organizations meeting (pending FOIA processing)
            • MFR from Panel Discussion on Rural Needs from Vinton, Iowa (pending FOIA processing)
            • Hotel info (withheld - FOIA exemption 2)
            • Staff contact sheet (withheld - FOIA exemption 2)
            • Eight research memoranda for commissioner discussion (withheld - FOIA exemption 5)
            • MFR - Internal Structured Discussion (withheld - FOIA exemption 5)
        13. June 2018 NCMNPS meetings, part 3 (Chicago and North Chicago, IL):
          • Public Meeting, Chicago, IL (28 June 2018):
          • Closed meetings and site visits, Chicago and North Chicago (Selective Service System operations and data center, Naval Station Great Lakes), IL:
            • Chicago Trip Agenda
            • Chicago area map
            • Chicago city overview
            • SSS Data Management Center PowerPoint (PDF version; note that the first slide is dated "June 2017", but this appears to be an error)
            • No meeting minutes (meeting minutes were listed on initial FOIA response cover letter, but do not exist per follow-up message)
            • Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram posts (neither released nor claimed as exempt; see FOIA response letter)
            • Briefer - Business and philanthropic leaders (pending FOIA processing)
            • Briefer - Opportunity Youth Roundtable (pending FOIA processing)
            • MFR on Opportunity Youth Discussion in Chicago, Illinois (pending FOIA processing)
            • Briefer - Civic learning meeting (pending FOIA processing)
            • Briefer - SSS region 1 visit (pending FOIA processing)
            • Briefer - SSS Data management center (pending FOIA processing)
            • MFR - SSS Data Management (pending FOIA processing)
            • MFR - Business and Philanthropist leaders (pending FOIA processing)
            • MFR - Opportunity Youth roundtable (pending FOIA processing)
            • MFR - SSS region 1 (pending FOIA processing)
            • (withheld pending consultation with the Selective Service System)
            • Hotel info (withheld - FOIA exemption 2)
            • Staff contact sheet (withheld - FOIA exemption 2)
            • Three research memoranda for commissioner discussion (withheld - FOIA exemption 5)
        14. July 2018 NCMNPS meetings (Texas)
        15. August 2018 NCMNPS meetings (Memphis, TN, and Bismarck, ND)
        16. September 2018 NCMNPS meetings (Southern California):
        17. October 2018 NCMNPS meetings (Arlington, VA):
        18. November 2018 NCMNPS meetings (Arlington, VA, and Washington, DC):
        19. December 2018 NCMNPS meetings:
          • 12-14 December 2018: Arlington, VA
            • December 2018 minutes
            • December 2018 agenda - "this document is redacted under exemption 2, as it included office conference call lines."
            • Briefer for meeting with CNCS (pending FOIA processing)
            • Briefer for meeting with Mike McCord (pending FOIA processing)
            • Briefer for meeting with U.S. Public Health Service Corps (pending FOIA processing)
            • Briefer for Disaster Response Roundtable (pending FOIA processing)
            • Briefer for meeting with Meg Garlinghouse (pending FOIA processing)
            • Briefer for Public Service Panel (pending FOIA processing)
            • "6 MFRs will be completed for this month, but three are currently in draft forms that are covered by
              exemption 5. The three that are completed -- the Public Service Panel, Mike McCord meeting, and CNCS
              meeting -- are being reviewed" for possible exemption from release in response to this FOIA request or redaction of exempt portions.
          • 17-18 December 2018: Seattle and Redmond, WA
        20. January 2019 closed meetings of NCMNPS and release of interim report
        21. Thursday, 21 February 2019: formal hearings on "Universal Service" (American University, Washington College of Law, Claudio Grossman Hall, 4300 Nebraska Ave., NW, Washington, DC):
        22. Thursday, 28 March 2019: formal hearing on "National Service" (Annenberg Presidential Conference Center, Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX)
        23. Wednesday-Thursday, 24-25 April 2019: formal hearings on "Selective Service" (Gallaudet University, Peikoff Alumni House, 800 Florida Ave. NE, Washington, DC)
        24. Wednesday-Thursday, 15-16 May 2019: formal hearings on "Public Service & Military Service" (Partnership for Public Service, Washington, DC)
        25. Thursday, 20 June 2019: forrmal hearing on "Creating an Expectation of Service" (FDR Presidential Library,Hyde Park, NY)
        26. March 2020 - statutory deadline for final NCMNPS report with recommendations
        27. September 2020 - NCMNPS statutory mandate expires; Commission disbanded (unless extended by new law)

Other submissions to the NCMNPS in response to request for public comments:

Records of speeches and presentations given by members of the NCMNPS:

              • Chairman Joe Heck keynote at the Senior Executives Association on December 13, 2018 in Washington, DC (pending FOIA processing)
              • Commissioner Shawn Skelly at panel during the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA)'s Fall Meeting on November 1, 2018 in Arlington, VA (pending FOIA processing)
              • Commissioner Steve Barney remarks at the 2018 Massachusetts AmeriCorps Opening Day on November 2, 2018 in Boston, MA (pending FOIA processing)
              • Commissioner Mark Gearan at the panel on "The Trail Ahead: National Service" at the annual Corps Network conference on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 in Washington, DC (pending FOIA processing)

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