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Posted on Apr 25, 2017 Print this Article

McCain/Obama Commission Empaneled to Promote “Draft America’s Daughters” and Compulsory National Service

As the Center for Military Readiness reported last December, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) used his power as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee to create a government-subsidized commission to promote his own long-favored causes at the expense of every young man and woman in America, plus military readiness in a time of national emergency.

Just prior to the Inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, lame-duck President Obama appointed three members to serve on the new Commission on Military, National and Public Service, which Chairman McCain created during a closed-door markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2017.  The commission will spend the next three years working to achieve goals that McCain and Obama share: “Draft America’s Daughters” legislation and universal conscription for government-directed “national service.”

This controversy began in May of last year, when Chairman McCain, without reason or notice in advance, sponsored legislation requiring 18-year-old women to register with Selective Service on the same basis as men.  During his committee’s closed-door markup of the defense bill, McCain also called for an elaborate, unnecessary commission to recommend legislation mandating co-ed conscription.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) offered an amendment to strike the McCain language, and six Republican committee members voted with Lee: James Inhofe (OK), Jeff Sessions (AL), Roger Wicker (MS), Tom Cotton (AR), Mike Rounds (SD ) and Ted Cruz (TX).

Inexplicably, seven Republicans joined with all Democrats to defeat the Lee motion to strike, 19-7.  Senators who voted to support Chairman McCain’s misguided legislation will share responsibility for harmful consequences that will play out years from now and possibly sooner. [1]

As CMR reported here, wiser heads prevailed on the House side last May.  During the House Armed Services markup, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) sponsored controversial “Draft America’s Daughters” legislation, mistakenly thinking that his language would force his colleagues to consider the consequences of ordering minimally-qualified women into the infantry.

Hunter voted against his own legislation to register women with Selective Service, but his dare backfired when House Armed Services Committee members passed it 32-30. [2]

In the ensuing uproar, HASC Chairman “Mac” Thornberry (R-TX) and Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) removed the offending language before the House vote on the NDAA, substituting reasonable language calling for an objective study of Selective Service requirements.

Later in the week, however, Chairman McCain inserted “Draft America’s Daughters” legislation in the Senate version of the NDAA, and proposed an 11-member commission to promote the idea.

In the Fall, during closed-door House/Senate Conference Committee meetings with “Top Four” leaders, McCain yielded to strong grassroots pressure to drop the Selective Service mandate, but he retained his language establishing his Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.  President Obama, who announced that he favored McCain’s position on co-ed conscription, signed the NDAA for 2017 on December 23, 2016. [3]

Commission Stacked to Achieve Single-Minded Goals

Instead of a straightforward, timely study of Selective Service and changes that might be needed to strengthen options for emergency readiness, the NDAA authorized the commission to spend $45,000,000 over three years to promote Chairman McCain’s point of view on mandatory military, national, or public service for both men and women.

The commission was supposed to have eleven members, but since three were not selected within the 90 days specified in law, the commission initially stood up with only eight members.  The March 31 deadline was brushed aside, however, when Chairman McCain and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) appointed two more members on April 4, 2017.

Most of the ten are likely to promote liberal military/social agendas favored by former President Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other liberal lawmakers who share Chairman McCain's views on "Draft America's Daughters" and compulsory national service.

CMR predicted that lame-duck President Obama would take advantage of the opportunity to appoint three members to the commission, precluding any appointments by President Donald J. Trump.  Sure enough, Obama quietly made permanent appointments a few days before President Trump’s Inauguration.  Obama’s appointees are:

  • Shawn Skelly – Formerly male Navy vet and prominent transgender Obama appointee
  • Avril Haines– Former Deputy National Security Advisor under National Security Advisor Susan Rice
  • Janine Davidson – Former Deputy to former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus (thought to be the worst Secretary of the Navy ever)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi appointed:

Edward T. Allard III, former Deputy Director of the Selective Service System and the husband of liberal California congresswoman Lucille Royce-Allard, (D-CA).  Rep. Allard is an immigration activist and a member of the LGBT Equality Caucus.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Senator Jack Reed appointed:

House Armed Services Committee Chairman “Mac” Thornberry appointed:

  • HASC Personnel Subcommittee staff member Jeanette James, a former colonel in the Army Nurse Corps.  The issue of Selective Service cannot be adequately studied without a full review of the underlying issue: women in direct ground (infantry) combat.  It is not known whether James’ apparent support for women in land combat will preclude an objective view of military draft registration of women.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) appointed:

  • Tom Kilgannon, President of Freedom Alliance, who is well qualified for the position.  Freedom Alliance programs that encourage young people to consider military and other forms of volunteer service provide excellent background related to subjects before the commission.  It will be difficult, however, for Commissioner Kilgannon to be outnumbered on issues before the Commission, potentially 10 to 1.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and SASC Chairman John McCain belatedly named two more members after the 90-day statutory deadline for appointments: 

  • Joseph Heck, former Nevada Congressman and HASC Personnel Subcommittee Chairman who was an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2016.  Mr. Heck, who has served as an Army Reserve Brigadier General, was supportive of Obama Administration policies making women eligible for involuntary assignment to direct ground (infantry) combat units. 
  • Stephen Barney, former General Counsel and Professional Staff member for Senate Armed Services Committee.  It is likely that Barney will promote the agenda of SASC Chairman McCain. 

 HASC Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA), apparently made another late appointment:

  • Debra Wada, former Asst. Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs

All will share responsibility with Chairman McCain and the others for every misguided policy coming out of what should be called the McCain/Obama Commission.

Draft America’s Daughters Plus Government-Directed National Service

The Selective Service issue often is confused by common misunderstandings, such as the notion that the system would call-up women only for support positions in the military.  On the contrary, military conscription would not call up people for non-combat positions.  The system would be activated only if there is a need for “combat replacements” for soldiers killed in battle.

Some men want to punish women, erroneously assuming that women have not or would not serve in future wars.  The truth is that women have always volunteered to serve during times of national emergency, and will do so again. 

It is always a good idea to encourage young people to volunteer their time to benefit people in need.  The controversy about compulsory national service, however, centers on whether the government should have the power to commandeer the lives of young people for purposes other than national defense under extreme conditions.

Several times the courts have upheld as constitutional Selective Service registration of young men after their 18th birthday.  The system is a readiness insurance policy, and it exists to expedite full military mobilization if America faces catastrophic threats beyond the capabilities of America’s All-Volunteer Force (AVF).

For reasons explained in this comprehensive CMR Policy Analysis: Women, War, and Selective Service, registering or calling up thousands of young women who cannot meet even minimal physical qualifications for the combat arms would jam and slow the Selective Service system at the worst possible time.

In order to prepare for unforeseen threats, it may be wise to update the Selective Service system with modern technology, but any policy change that slows mobilization would detract from readiness and throw the nation into political crisis.

Given the makeup of the loaded McCain/Obama Commission, it is unlikely that members will recognize these realities, which contradict false assumptions regarding the abilities of female soldiers to be interchangeable with men in combat arms units such as the infantry. [4]

Conscription and the U.S. Constitution

Chairman McCain’s legislation requires the President to establish and transmit to the Commission and Congress principles for reform of the Selective Service process, including whether all citizens and residents, regardless of sex, should be required to register.

It also directs the president to address “The need, and how best to meet the need, of the Nation, the military, the Federal civilian sector, and the private sector (including the non-profit sector) for individuals possessing critical skills and abilities, and how best to employ individuals possessing those skills and abilities for military, national, or public service.” (Emphasis added)

This is a mandate that President Trump should either ignore or repudiate in strong terms.  The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of Selective Service registration and conscription several times, but Congress has never mandated “compulsory national service” for civilian purposes.

There is no precedent or language in the U.S. Constitution to justify legislation authorizing bureaucrats to control the lives and futures of young people for reasons other than national defense.  Nor do federal officials have the constitutional power to order young people to work under the direction of government-selected organizations that meet politically correct requirements.

The McCain/Obama Commission should consider the constitutionality of compulsory national or public service, and the administration and responsible members of Congress should consider the consequences of making free people servants of the state.

Pentagon Power Base to Promote McCain/Obama Agenda

The legislation that Chairman McCain sponsored indicates that the commission will not conduct an objective “study” of military readiness requirements.  Skewed findings and problematic recommendations will be in tune with the stated objectives of former President Obama and liberal Democratic congressional leaders, as well as Chairman McCain.

Members who will serve for the life of the commission will choose the Chair, Vice Chair, and Executive Director of the panel.  The legislation also authorizes paid expenses for as many as five consultants and organizations to work with the commission.  Given the pre-determined bias of members, these advisors probably will reflect only one point of view.

The commission will have hearings announced in the Federal Register, and members are directed to write a report with recommendations, including draft legislation.  This pre-determined process essentially will preclude objective congressional oversight for more than three years.

Final recommendations and a report will not be released for public review on the commission’s Internet website until they are submitted to the President and Congress.  This lack of transparency on matters that will affect all young men and women in America suggests a political power play, not a legitimate study of alternative strategies for readiness.

When Chairman McCain receives and publicizes the commission report, members of Congress would have to vote for legislation imposing Selective Service requirements on women and/or co-ed conscription for civilian national service.  In the unlikely event that President Trump or another future president signed such legislation into law, lawsuits would immediately challenge the unprecedented mandates.  Years of controversy would benefit no one but lawyers and liberal organizations.

Neglect and Accountability

Former President Obama, Chairman McCain, and many members of Congress have shown zero support for military women who do not want to be ordered into the combat arms on the same basis as men.  Nor have they paid attention to extensive scientific research tests that the Marine Corps conducted in 2012-2015, which confirmed rates of debilitating injuries for women two- to ten-times higher than men’s when performing tasks common in ground (infantry) combat units. [5]

Members of the House and Senate should defund the McCain/Obama Commission and consider redirecting funds to something worthwhile -- perhaps a special program for female servicemembers and veterans who have suffered debilitating injuries trying to perform like men in the combat arms.

The extremely controversial concept of involuntary military, national, or public service deserves robust, informed debate and public hearings.  We do not need a tax-funded commission empowered to promote policies that would weaken military readiness, and impose big-government mandates that control the lives of every young man and woman in this country.

* * * * * *

Prepared by the Center for Military Readiness, an independent public policy organization founded in 1993, which reports on and analyses military/social issues.  More information is available on the CMR website: www.cmrlink.orgTo support CMR with a tax-deductible contribution, click here.  You can also support CMR by visiting, liking, and sharing the CMR Facebook page.

[1] In addition to McCain, these senators were Kelly Ayotte (NH), Deb Fischer (NB), Joni Ernst (IA), Thom Tillis (NC), Dan Sullivan (AK) and Lindsay Graham(SC). 

 [2] Republican members Martha McSally (AZ), Joe Heck (NV), Walter Jones (NC), Sam Graves (MO) Steve Knight (CA) and Chris Gibson (NY) joined with all but one Democrat (John Garamendi, CA) in narrowly approving the measure. 

 [3] National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2017, Subtitle F – National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, Sections 551-557.

 [4] In December 2015, Obama Administration ignored the Marine Corps’ formal request that some direct ground combat fighting units, such as the infantry, remain all-male.  That request, which then-Commandant Gen. Joe Dunford submitted to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, was supported by scientific research conducted over three years, 2012 – 2015.  See Statement cited in footnote #5.

 [5] See CMR  Statement for the Record of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Feb. 5, 2016.  This is an Executive Summary.

Updated: October 15, 2017

Posted on Apr 25, 2017 Print this Article