Jon E. Dougherty is a Missouri-based political science major, author, writer and columnist. Follow him on Twitter.
Because of his “philosophical” disagreement with conscription, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, introduced a bill in the House to eliminate the Selective Service System and the Selective Service Act.
The bill, known as H.R.1597, was introduced and referred to the House Armed Services Committee April 26. It has six cosponsors.
A summary of the bill has yet to be written and published either online or in print form, a spokesman said, but officials expected to complete it within a few weeks.
If passed, the bill would eliminate the Selective Service System, or SSS, and the law requiring all males to register for the draft on their 18th birthday.
Asked why Paul introduced the legislation, spokesman Jeff Deist said Paul “is certainly opposed to the draft in any way, shape or form.”
“Philosophically, conscription is not something that a free society, in our view, ought to abide,” he said, because it “forces a young person to go somewhere against their will.”
“We also oppose it pragmatically, as the necessity of it is in question,” Deist said.
The SSS has been embroiled in controversy before. In years past, political opponents of the Selective Service Act have attempted to defund the agency by as much as 60 percent — efforts that historically have been opposed by the Pentagon.
Also, SSS officials say regardless of the United States’ nearly 30-year all-volunteer army concept, begun by President Nixon in 1973 when he signed legislation ending the draft, there is still a need to maintain ready lists of draft-eligible men.
“Historically, a draft has been employed to counter foreign threats, maintain large, standing non-volunteer forces and to demonstrate U.S. resolve,” Richard Flahavan, chief of governmental affairs for the Selective Service System, told WND in an August 2000 interview.
Critics are missing the big picture, Selective Service officials insist. Instead of seeing the agency as a drag on national security or as an anachronism, Americans instead should view the agency more like a fire department — out of sight and out of mind when times are good, but ready to respond in an emergency, they say.
Flahavan said recent annual budgets have varied between $23 million and $25 million.
“The preamble of the Constitution states that, ‘We the people … [shall] provide for the common defense,’” he noted. “By including these words, the framers established the principle that protecting our nation from hostile threats is a shared responsibility that rests foremost on able-bodied Americans.”
“The world is still a dangerous and uncertain place, with American forces committed to many hot spots,” Flavahan noted.
Deist said the problem with a draft, or even the mechanism to implement a draft, lies in giving the federal government a tool with which to send young people off to fight in wars that may have little or no bearing on U.S. national security.
He said Paul was “very aware” of Congress’ authority to “raise and support armies,” but that the SSS elimination bill would do nothing to inhibit that power.
And, in the event that the U.S. were ever attacked, Deist said a draft “wouldn’t be an issue” because Americans’ sense of duty would cause millions to volunteer.
“If the threat is real and it’s in our self-interests, then I imagine people would go voluntarily,” he said.
Flavahan said some Pentagon officials believe the Selective Service System could eventually be used to draft personnel to make up for chronic recruitment shortages endemic to most all military branches — with the exception of the Marine Corps — though most analysts don’t see that happening.
In fact, recent recruitment figures show that the Army, Navy and Air Force have again begun to meet recruitment quotas.
Opponents of the draft say that even the military doesn’t envision any realistic scenario where conscription would be necessary.