Is Selective Service A Sinking Ship?

SSS Using Taxpayer Money to Lobby for Its Survival

CCW a couple of months ago that Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colorado) had introduced legislation (H.R. 621) that would shut down the Selective Service System (SSS) and end draft registration.

The Center has recently learned that Selective Service has sent a blast message to “the SSS family” which includes draft board members, regional offices and state directors.  Selective Service states that a vote on this bill is expected in the subcommittee as early as May 4, and if it passes, (which they say is likely) “it should go before the full House Armed Services Committee on May 11, to the full house before the end of May, and then to the Senate.”

SSS is trying to prevent this from happening.  In these fiscally unstable times with tensions running high surrounding the budget, SSS, as a government agency, is apparently using taxpayers’ money in an attempt to sway Congress and convince them of the importance of SSS.  Their message to the “SSS family” encouraged them to contact their representatives in Congress to oppose H.R. 621.  The message said “THIS IS NOT A DRILL!” and called this an “ALL HANDS ON DECK TIME!” (capitalization their emphasis)

This use of taxpayers’ money brings into question the legality of this lobby effort.  The Anti-Lobbying Act, enacted in 1919, says:

“No part of the money appropriated by any enactment of Congress shall, in the absence of express authorization by Congress, be used directly or indirectly to pay for any personal service, advertisement, telegram, telephone, letter, printed or written matter, or other device, intended or designed to influence in any manner a Member of Congress . . . to favor, adopt, or oppose, by vote or otherwise, any legislation, law, ratification, policy or appropriation . . .”

A full summary of the Act can be found here.

Not only is this activity apparently illegal, but the arguments against H.R. 621 by SSS stand on uneasy ground.  Currently registration compliance is at 91%, a number they say is high enough to validate their work.  Selective Service interprets registration as support for selective service, claiming that dismantling SSS “is not the position of America’s youth.”

However, the reality is that coercion is a major factor in getting people to register.  In fact, according to the SSS FY 2010 Annual Report, 33% of registrations came from those applying for drivers licenses, and 24% came from the Dept. of Education (from when students filled out the FAFSA to get scholarships) so the majority of those who registered did so either unintentionally or because of coercion.  If anything, the registration data shows that “America’s youth” do not support the Selective Service registration!

Selective Service is good at spinning facts differently to suit their particular needs.  While their current arguments say that a 91% registration compliance rate is a good compliance rate and indicates support for Selective Service, two previous directors (Bernard Rostker and Thomas Turnage) testified before Congress that in order for the draft registration program to be “fair,” Selective Service would have to achieve a 98 percent compliance rate.

Gil Coronado, SSS Director in 1999 said about the high rate of non-compliance: “Unless we are successful in achieving high registration compliance, America may be on the verge of creating a permanent underclass.”

Ironically, Selective Service admits that “[c]onscription has never been popular in a free society; there were draft riots as far back as the Civil War.”

Yet in spite of the evidence to the contrary, Selective Service is trying to convince Congress that their registration program is successful and popular, and plays a vital role in a free and democratic society.

Contact your representatives in Congress and urge them to end the registration and deauthorize the Selective Service System.  Conscription has no place in a free and democratic society.  Supporting HR 621 would be one way to do that!

Please forward this alert to others who share your concerns.

Center on Conscience & War