On December 19th, just before Congress recessed until the new year, U.S. Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Rodney Davis (R-IL) introduced H.R. 5492, a bill “To repeal the Military Selective Service Act, and thereby terminate the registration requirements of such Act and eliminate … the Selective Service System.”
Text of bill as introduced (not yet posted on Congress.gov)
This bill is the most comprehensive anti-draft proposal introduced in Congress since the reinstatement of Selective Service registration in 1980.
H.R. 5492 would:
1. Repeal the Military Selective Service Act (thereby eliminating Presidential authority to order men to register with the Selective Service System for a possible military draft and eliminating criminal penalties for failure or refusal to register);
2. Abolish the Selective Service System (thereby ending contingency planning by the SSS for the Health Care Personnel Delivery System or any other form of special-skills draft);
3. Prohibit all other Federal agencies from imposing civil sanctions (denial of Federal student financial aid, Federally-funded jobs, etc.) for nonregistration or using nonregistration as a basis for other adverse determinations (denial of naturalization as a U.S. citizen, etc.);
4. “Preempt” (and thereby override and prohibit) all state sanctions for nonregistration (denial of drivers’ licenses, state financial aid, state jobs, etc.); and
5. Preserve the rights of conscientious objectors under other laws and regulations (such as applicants for reassignment to noncombatant duties or discharge from the military on the basis of conscientious objection).
There have been other proposals over the decades to eliminate some of the penalties for nonregistration and/or to abolish the Selective Service System. But H.R. 5492 is the first such bill that would also do away with the lifetime sanctions for nonregistration imposed by dozens of state laws.
H.R. 5492 is based in part on a bill introduced in 2016, also co-sponsored by Rep. DeFazio among others. The latest bill is significantly more comprehensive, however, and includes everything that anti-draft and anti-war organizations and activists and Rep. DeFazio have asked the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (NCMNPS) to include in its recommendations to Congress.
Getting this bill introduced in Congress and included in the proposals considered by the NCMNPS is a key step toward finally ending draft registration after forty years of failure. This is the first and currently the only proposal formally introduced in Congress for what Congress should do about draft registration once it receives the report of the NCMNPS.
Congress probably won’t take up this issue until after it receives the NCMNPS report and recommendations, which are required to be released by March 2020. Sometime after that — most likely after the elections, in late 2020 or perhaps more likely 2021 — Congress is likely to take up the issue of whether to end draft registration or try to extend it to young women as well as young men.
H.R. 5492 could be considered on its own, or incorporated into a larger bill such as one implementing recommendations of the NCMNPS (which might also contain additional funding for voluntary national service programs) or the annual omnibus National Defense Authorization Act (which was the bill used to create the NCMNPS in 2016).
With the introduction of H.R. 5492, the report of the NCMNPS due in March 2020, and Congress likely to be forced by pending legal cases to choose between ending draft registration and trying to expand it to women as well as men, we are closer to ending draft registration than at any time since the requirement for all young men to register with the Selective Service System was reinstated in 1980.
Take Action Now
Opponents of military conscription can take action now to help end draft registration, preparations for a military draft, and Federal and state punishment of draft registration resisters:
1. If you can do so before the close of the NCMNPS (National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service) public comment period on 31 December 2019, ask the NCMNPS to recommend that Congress enact H.R. 5492. You can do so even if you already submitted a comment to the NCMNPS. It takes only a minute if you use this Web form:
2. Ask your U.S. Representative to co-sponsor H.R. 5492. Ask your Senators to introduce a similar bill in the Senate. Ask candidates to take a stand on this issue: “If elected, would you support legislation to try to expand draft registration to women, or would you support legislation such as H.R. 5492 to end draft registration and abolish the Selective Service System?”
3. If you are part of an organization that opposes military conscription, ask your group to endorse H.R. 5492. (If your group adopts a position or makes a statement on this issue, please let me know. Seeing more organizational endorsers for the bill might help influence more members of Congress to support or co-sponsor the bill or a similar bill in the Senate.)
Thanks to Rep. DeFazio, Rep. Davis, their staff, and all who worked with them to make this the best bill possible. Let’s get this enacted into law!