Should Congress demand America’s youth give a year of service to their country? – By Amy Rutenberg (The Conversation) / March 24 2020
What does it mean to serve the United States, and who should be required to do so?
On March 25, 2020, after three years of investigation, the National Commission for Military, National, and Public Service is expected to make its final recommendations on the issue to Congress. Members of the nonpartisan commission hope that their work will ignite “a national conversation,” and it comes at a time when an unprecedented public health crisis is making Americans think about the public good in ways they haven’t for decades.
The question of service gained renewed relevance in late 2015 after then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that all military jobs – including combat specialties – would be open to women, essentially negating the Supreme Court’s 1981 rationale for excluding women from the draft.
After Carter made his announcement, Congress authorized the creation of the commission in order to fully explore options, including requiring women to register with the Selective Service, the agency responsible for a draft should Congress authorize one, or axing the draft altogether.
‘A greater ethos’
In early 2019, a federal judge in Texas ruled that requiring only men to register with Selective Service discriminated against men’s constitutionally guaranteed right to equal protection. Hearings on the appeal began in the Fifth Circuit Court in March. Meanwhile, a bipartisan bill to eliminate Selective Service entirely awaits action in the House, although it is unlikely Congress will make any moves before it receives the commission’s report.