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National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (NCMNPS)

redacted slide from DOD briefing
Recommendations from the Pentagon to the National Commission on Military Service on how to execute a draft (redacted version released in response to my FOIA request)

SSS contingency plans to register women for the draft
Contingency plans to register women for the draft (from presentation to the National Commission on Military Service by the Selective Service System, released in response to my FOIA request)

For the first time in decades, a Federal commission is holding open-mike public hearings throughout the USA and soliciting written submissions from the public 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.

The Commision's next public event will be at Cal State University, Los Angeles, on Thursday, 20 September 2018. The deadline for written comments has been extended through 30 September 2018. You can submit comments though this Web form or by e-mail to "info@inspire2serve.gov", mentioning "Docket No. 05-2018-01" in the subject line of your e-mail message.

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 on for more about the Commission, talking points for testimony and/or written submissions to the Commission, and information about the Commission's public and closed-door activities obtained through Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

What is happening with this Commission? Why is it happening now? What can we do about it?

Testimony, independent audio recordings, and reports from NCMNPS hearings:

Why a National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service?

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')."

Four members of the Commision were appointed by Republican Party leaders in Congress, four by Democratic Party leaders in Congress, and three by President Obama (as a "lame-duck" President in late 2016, after the election of President Trump).

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. At their September 2017 meeting, according to the redacted version of the minutes released in response to my FOIA request, "Commissioners decided in favor of the Commission issuing an interim report in approximately twelve months." Tweleve months have pssed, but there's been no further public mention of an interim report, and it's not celar if that is still the Commission's intent.

The act establishing the Commission was signed into law by President Obama on 23 December 2016. In accordance with this law, 3 of the 11 members of the Commission were appointed by President Obama during his final days in office. The other 8 members were appointed by members of Congress, one each by the House and Senate majority and minority leaders and the ranking majority and minority party members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.

What should we say to this Commission?

The Commission wants to know what we think about the draft, draft registration, and 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 women, 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 can and should 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.

To the extent that the Commission is considering some form of compulsory service, it needs to be reminded of the contradictions between comulsion or coercion and any positive notion of "service". As I said directly to the Commission in my testimony at its hearing in Denver in April 2018, "Compulsory service is, by definition, slavery." Others have made similar statements to the Commission. Teaching people to equate service with submission amounts to teaching them obedience. But we have enough people who are willing to obey orders unquestioningly. We need more people who question authority and who are willing to disobey illegal and immoral orders.

How does the Commission operate? What happens at its meetings and events?

I've attended three of the Commission's publicly advertised meetings, and have talked to opponents of the draft who attended others. All of these events have been small and informal, with perhaps 50 people in attendance at each, including Commission staff and invited witnesses and guests, mainly from voluntary "service" organizations. There has been no way to sign up in advance to testify. The first hour of each 2-hour "public" session has been devoted to presentations by Commission members and a panel of invited witnesses. For the second hour, members of the audience have been called on by show of hands to speak for up to 2 minutes each. So far as I know, everyone who showed up and wanted to testify at one of these events has gotten a chance to speak. If time was left over after everyone wishing to speak had done so, those wanting more time were given a second chance to speak for an additional 2 minutes each.

To date, only a few of the Commission's meetings and events have been publicly advertised or disclosed in advance, and details of locations and times have been disclosed only at the last minute. The Commission has adopted a (secret) research plan for its staff, and has solicited and received numerous closed-door briefings.

Although the law creating the Commission provides that Commission meetings are to be open to the public unless a member of the Commission objects, or classified information is to be discussed, Commsion members have unanimously agreed to close aomost all of their meetings to the public and the press. Even Commission staff members have been excluded from many of the Commission's meetings.

Some members of the Commision have spoken and written publicly about how they see the role of the Commission (one member cited favorably to the example of "service" set by that inspiring leader, Richard Nixon). But they have done so as individuals, not on behalf of the Commission as a whole. We don't know what has been discussed or what differences of opinion exist between members of the Commission.

The emphasis in the publicity for the Commission's public events and its selection of invited speakers at those events has been almost entirely on voluntary rather than compulsory service. The focus of the Commission's interest appears to be a compulsory "national service" requirement with both military and civilian components. While the Commission has solicited and received some closed-door briefings on the draft, draft registration, and compulsory "service", none of these appear to have addressed the issues of compliance, enforcement, or whether a draft or compulsory service would be "feasible".

The fragmentary records I have received from the Commission in response to my FOIA request show that the Commission has solicited and received written and verbal (closed-door) briefings from invited witnesses and reviewed published articles concerning the draft, draft registration, and compulsory national "service".

One of the Commission's meetings included an hour-long "structured deliberation on mandatory national service". There's no record of any comparable time devoted by the Commission to any of the other policy oiptions it is required to study report on, such as expanding draft registration to young women as well as young men, or attmepting to implement a draft for women and men of all ages with certain special skills.

The author of an article entitled, "Why We Still Need the Draft", which was distributed to the members of the Commission, was invited to give a closed-door briefing in which she, "argued for preserving the selective service system in case of mass mobilization, and urged the Commission to consider ways in which the nation might conscript individuals with unique skills, such as financial analysts or software engineers." During another closed-door briefing by a retired military officer who was invited to tell the Commission why he supports reinstating the draft, members of the Commission asked about how to "sell" the idea of military conscription to a reluctant American public. But there's been little or no mention of this aspect of the Commission's private agenda in the publicity for its public events.

In spite of the low profile given to the issues of draft registration, the draft, and compulsory "service" in the Commission's publicity about its public events, witnesses at the Commission events I have attended have included people who have refused to register for the draft (including at least 4 of the 20 people who were prosecuted for publicly refusing to register in the 1980s, before mass noncompliance forced the government to abandon prosecution of nonregistrants), people who had refused induction into the military during the US war in Vietnam, conscientious objectors to military "service", military veterans against war and conscription, and other supporters of draft resistance.

NCMNPS records released in response to my FOIA requests:

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 toi 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.

Federal "advisory" committees are required to deliberate in a fish bowl, but the 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.

The "Business Rules" approved by the Commission 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 have been posted (at least not yet) on the Commission's Web site.

The Commission has asserted that notes of Commision meetings kept by members or staff of the Commsion 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 has asserted that none of the text, audio, or video files it has uploaded to offical Commsion acocunts on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms are "records" subject to FOIA. the Commisison 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.

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 "consultation" with the by the Department of Defense.

Records below are either as released by the Commission in response to my FOIA request, or directly from other government agencies. Records acknowledged by the Commissison 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.

Legal background to the NCMNPS:

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

  1. September 2017 NCMNPS meetings (The Pentagon, Arlington, VA):
    • September 2017 Agenda
    • September 2017 Minutes
    • Proposed staff organization chart (withheld - FOIA Exemption 5)
    • Ethics handout on Special Government Employees (withheld - FOIA Exemption 5)
    • Presentation on Operational Support (withheld - FOIA Exemption 2)
  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):
    • January 2018 Agenda
    • January 2018 Minutes
    • Launch Program
    • Launch Transcript
    • Launch Talking Points and top-line messaging (withheld - FOIA Exemption 5)
    • Media and Message Coaching presentation ( (withheld - FOIA Exemption 4)
    • Ethics handout on Social Media (withheld - FOIA Exemption 5)
    • Presentation on Operations Support (withheld - FOIA Exemption 2)
    • Draft Research Plan (withheld - FOIA Exemption 5)
  6. February 2018 NCMNPS meetings (Harrisburg, PA):
  7. March 2018 NCMNPS meetings (Arlington, VA):
  8. April 2018 NCMNPS meetings (Denver and Colorado Springs, CO):
  9. NCMNPS meetings after date of FOIA request, 4 May 2018:

This page will be updated as more Commisison records are released. If you receive records from the NCMNPS is response to your own FOIA requests, please share them for posting here.


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