Should every American Citizen serve in the military? Should women be required to register for the selective service (draft)? What should the future of the Selective Service look like?

Navy Veteran Shawn Skelly and Marine Corps Veteran Ed Allard are commissioners for the Commission on National, Military and Public Service. Their mission is to recommend answers to these and many more questions to Congress by March 2020. Shawn and Ed visited Borne the Battle to discuss the two years of data that the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service has gathered to answer those and many other questions.


Some of the goals of the National Commission are:

  • Reviewing the military selective service process.
  • Listening to the public to learn from those who serve.
  • Igniting a national conversation about service.
  • Developing recommendations that will encourage every American to be inspired and eager to serve.

According to their interim report, the Commission has learned:

  • Americans value service.
  • Americans are willing to consider a wide variety of options to encourage or require service.
  • Some Americans are aware of the details of the Selective Service System while many are not.

Some Barriers to Service include:

  • Military Service is a responsibility borne by few.
  • National Service is America’s best-kept secret.
  • Public Service personnel practices need an overhaul.
  • Civic knowledge is critical for our democracy, but too few Americans receive high quality education.

Finally, the commissioners came on Borne the Battle to let listeners know that they can provide input.


#BtBattle Veteran of the Day
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Simone Young contributed to this story. She is a podcast intern with the VA’s Digital Media Engagement Team. She is a recent graduate from Elon University with a Master of Arts in Interactive Media.

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Published on Dec. 18, 2019

Estimated reading time is 2.3 min.

Views to date: 193


  1. Carlos Tomkin December 22, 2019 at 4:39 am

    Howard Bennis was totally on the mark. All American citizens should serve in some capacity in National Service. It does not necessarily mean in the Armed Forces. There are other ways to serve, before, during and after College, even in the Peace Corps if its still around. Between 18 and 26, your two year obligation should be complete. That gives you an 8 year span / window to do your volunteer service. After age 26 there should be a ‘Check-Box’ in every single application or document you fill out asking whether you served in some capacity or not.
    – Approx 99.4% of our young adults just don’t see it as a duty or need to serve their country. That’s an alarmingly high number for a country with over 327 million people.


  2. Richard Burnett December 21, 2019 at 5:35 pm

    ALL US citi,zens should serve in the military. These means everyone: GAY, STRAIGHT, TRANSGENDER, BISEXUAL, QUESTIONING, WHATEVER. This would accomplish the following: 1. everyone has a stake in our military and will be involved in voting and letting congress and POTUS know what wars we want and what we don’t want. 2. Everyone will get healthcare in the military, physical, mental, vision, hearing, dental. After leaving service, they are covered FOR LIFE WITH FREE HEALTHCARE!! Easy peasy!

  3. Gary Kennedy December 21, 2019 at 12:20 pm

    I think the military would provide young people a sense of responsibility, discipline, and a sense of patriotism. I am tired of seeing news reports of young college students throwing chairs and whatnot through college campus windows because they oppose a scheduled speaker on campus they don’t agree with, or physically attacking another student who has a different point of view than theirs. Or, a college student who can’t take a final exam because they saw a construction worker’s pick-up on campus with a confederate flag bumper sticker. I am appalled when I see young children throwing bottles of water on policemen and getting away with it. Perhaps a military tour in a foreign country would give them an appreciation of the freedom and opportunity they have here in America.

  4. Robert P Nichols December 20, 2019 at 6:11 pm

    I am a Viet Nam era Air Force veteran. Of my 4 year enlistment I spent 3 years out of country. Due to TDYs and NATO meets etc I traveled much of the world. I learned we in the United States are spoiled and don’t know it. I feel everyone should have to register regardless and everyone between the age of 18 and 21 should be required to serve at least 1 year out of country and I do not mean Canada or Mexico They would learn what the world is really like and understand why there is so much unrest in the world. I do not mean everyone should have to serve in the military but in some capacity such as The Peace Corp or one of the other groups that strive to improve the life of others in the world. Doing so would make the young adults appreciate the freedom and life we enjoy in the United States and would be a better citizen and certainly better understand the political issues and be a more responsible voter and overall citizen

  5. Laurence Weber December 20, 2019 at 9:09 am

    The question of required service is not an easy one. On the good side, it does give everyone, as some commentator said, “skin in the game.” I was drafted during Vietnam just before aging out of the pool at age 26 and thought I was being hardly done by. I was lucky and spent 2 years at Ft. Bragg with a 9 – 5 job in Psychological Operations. Looking back I’m glad to have had the experience of basic training and rough drill instructors and of getting into things I never would have w/o the military and interacting with people I never would have met otherwise. And I feel like I did my bit even if I didn’t have to face combat. Our unit had a large number of draftees and they did the job reliably but with some skepticism of the military — a healthy attitude it seems to me. I attended some classes with a high ranking officer in charge warning us about threats to the country and fear for the republic and other political talk that was totally inappropriate and none of his business — it was the draftees among us who called that crap what it was and didn’t swallow it. That’s one reason I support universal service — with that, there are people there who have healthy skepticism of the military. On the other hand, what is the military going to do with excess man/woman power? Do they need that many people? I doubt it these days. So then other roles have to be found in places like Peace Corps, hospital helpers, etc. A large administrative task. But overall I would support it.

  6. Lloyd E Dennis Sr December 19, 2019 at 7:40 pm

    I think after graduating HS unless your going to some sort of college to further your education, you should serve in the military.Taking away the draft was the dummest thing that ever happened.These young kids need to how to be responsible and to look forward to something in life besides drugs and jail,it’s a sad situation and if they want to be saved the military l think is their best option.

  7. Fred Mathis December 19, 2019 at 5:51 pm

    The military draft is a direct violation of an individual’s right to life, the fundamental right identified in the Declaration of Independence. A right that 10’s of thousands of Americans have died protecting. The only proper function of government is to protect man’s rights. Forcing men and women to sacrifice their lives is clearly unconstitutional.

    A volunteer military is the only proper way to defend a free country. There never has been nor ever will be a shortage of volunteers to fight a just war. Only a draft can make wars like Vietnam possible.

  8. Will Todd December 19, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    Other countries require their citizens to join, might help more people get ahead and decrease some of the nonsense going on right now. Serve your country and receive valuable training and life skills!

  9. James December 19, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    I think all Americans should serve in the military.  My why is, the military builds confidence, leadership, team building and much more. I believe the most important is being part of something bigger in life that our young people don’t get and our educational system that doesn’t educate them on American Patriotism, morals, the honor of one’s nation and the people that served and died for this great country United States of America. America, use to do this at one time.  Israel, Norway, Denmark, and other countries today that require mandatory service have a sense of honor to one’s people and nation.Their people are united and love their country unconditionally so, we should do the same. God willing!

  10. Keith Russell December 19, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    I did 20 years , I have served with people that were great people. I do feel that to serve in in office you should be required to have been the Military with Honorable Discharge. There should not be a requirement that you be a door kicker, or how long you were out of country. Tell me the person that maned an ICBM or was on a Ship didn’t sacrifice. If you took the oath and served Honorably, you did your part.
    I don’t think the draft is the way to go, we get enough crappy people in, not just poor but also people that grew up well off from good families. Crap is crap. We need to make it a requirement that to do business with the Government your company has a requirement to employ a percentage of Veterans just like they do with minorities and other groups. Make the Military attractive, going to College will not automatically be a foot up on all of the Veteran’s you will still need the Military to give you a true foot up in combination.
    I know my views might not be popular with this group, but it would get more and possibly better people than a draft.

  11. James Meador December 19, 2019 at 11:32 am

    I am in agreement with Howard Bennis that all should serve in some capacity. Once 18, regardless of gender or who or what they identify with. Eighteen years from the date of birth as established on the birth certificate (those that are still in high school would be allowed to graduate (those not in good standing would get their Diploma or GED while serving)); those people should have to serve, in some kind of service. For those students that receive acceptance to colleges or universities will be allowed to go, but still have to serve upon completion of said college or university (regardless of length of time to complete college or university; student will be required to serve). Service to this nation would be all that is required. Each person would be able to serve in the military, law enforcement, fire protection, medical/EMT; courts and state, county or city offices/maintenance. These positions will be similar to paid internships, but with uniforms, shelter, food provided. Each person would receive a stipend, but not more than what a cadet at an Academy receives. A 2% Federal sales tax would suffice to cover the costs. The tax would only need to be in effect for a period of two years, the cost savings of the program itself would be enough to keep it going for the remainder.

  12. Steve Renne December 19, 2019 at 10:57 am

    Women want equality and they should be given it. Requiring boys to register for selective service, but not the girls is nothing less than sexist. Registering for selective service, however, is not a qualifier for service, but, it is a way to maintain a draft registry (if it should ever be required again). Choosing to serve should have its perks, not only during service but when moving into a military veteran status. The longer you serve the greater the benefit (example: You retire [at 20+ years], you are tax exempt, receive big discounts on federal programs {National Park passes, etc.}, and high quality insurances) in addition to other veteran perks. Combat veterans (actual combat, not combat zone) with honorable service, less than retirement years, who are medically retired due to injuries sustained in combat would receive these same benefits. Combat veterans (actual combat, not combat zone) who leave service without retirement (medical or length of service) would not be tax exempt but would receive the other two perks in addition to other veteran perks. Other veteran perks (education, no veteran homeless, basic veteran healthcare, etc.) would be for all veterans. A service member KIA should be treated as a retired combat veteran, and their spouse provided the benefits until they remarry. A veterans spouse, who does not remarry, should be eligible for the same perks if the veteran dies (not by spouses actions) as though the veteran was still with them. Unused education benefits should be transferable to veteran children, under age 21, and spouses needing education to re-enter the workforce. Among veterans, these categories are distinguishable. Veterans deserve to know that their Spouse (and minor children) will be taken care of when they die. To make an immediate impact, make it retroactive for eligibility purposes, but effective when approved by Congress. WHY? Because only 1% serve, even fewer are involved directly in combat, and even fewer retire. Make serving in the military desirable by the benefits of being a veteran and recruitment will be boosted. Stagger the benefits by distinguished markers and people will weigh their lifestyle and career options.

    • William AF Mulholland December 19, 2019 at 4:37 pm

      I agree and disagree. After high school, no deferments for college. No local government or police, fire or EMTs.
      Qualifying service would be the military, Job CORP, Peace CORP, a CCC or WPA type program. These would be federal type programs.
      Depending on the length and type of service, a minimum of 2 years, a percentage of college of trade school would be taken care of. Full tuition for military under GI Bill and depending on length of service 40 to 80 percent.
      All, male and female would be required to perform service.
      Medically incapable individuals would be required to perform clerical duties.
      This program would take care of 3 problems. 1. For the last 46 years, the younger population have had no skin in the game.
      2. Here is an avenue for all youth to be able to offset the high
      cost of education or trade schools and 3. enabling this generation to recreate what was achieved with the WW II GI Bill and become the second greatest generation.

      William Mulholland
      Spokane , WA

  13. Roger Mattis December 19, 2019 at 10:57 am

    If we as a nation choose to accept that, contrary to all scientific data, there is no difference between men and women, then women should be required to serve in the military. The faster we begin to do this the faster we will learn that this path is doomed to mediocrity and we will begin to learn that men and women, while completely equal in dignity and value, have different gifts and talents. Learning this lesson will help us become one of the greatest nations in history. When we begin to foster and lift up the innate gift of the feminine genius and promote and encourage authentic masculinity, we will begin to have both genders acting at the highest capacity and then their combined collaboration will skyrocket the human capacity of America. Until we disembark from the equality train we are on we will continue toward mediocrity and fall behind those nations that foster greatness as opposed to lowering people to an equal playing field.

    • Mike Endres December 19, 2019 at 2:56 pm

      Excellent. Very well put Roger.

  14. A Webb December 19, 2019 at 10:40 am

    Until one swears the oath and is willing to fight for their country, how can they really have an understanding of being part of it? Until they have some “skin” in the game they are spectators only.

  15. Norman Wallace December 19, 2019 at 10:06 am

    Let’s utilize those senior citizens who are healthy and experienced with so much expertise to contribute. They can free up the younger personnel to fill the more physically demanding jobs while putting a highly skilled and motivated group of people back to work.

  16. Norman Wallace December 19, 2019 at 10:06 am

    Let’s utilize those senior citizens who are healthy and experienced with so much expertise to contribute. They can free up the younger personnel to fill the more physically demanding jobs while putting a highly skilled and motivated group of people back to work.

  17. Richard Cephal December 19, 2019 at 9:46 am

    No, not a requirement outside of the social/economic entrapment that currently exists… But it should be a required part of the qualifications in order to serve in the capacity of a Congressman or Senator or President. The requirement should be no less than eight years active duty service with a minimum two years in a combat unit, and four years on foreign soil, and support fields are ineligible.

    • Steve Renne December 19, 2019 at 11:14 am

      I agreed until you through in “with a minimum two years in a combat unit, and four years on foreign soil, and support fields are ineligible”. Service in a combat unit is irrelevant as is the need for service on foreign soil. Support roles I can chew on a little in that a support role in a combat zone puts them in the mix to understand what it means to serve. Military service should be a pre-requisite for being a political servant at the federal level (Senator, Governor, Secretary of a Department (Defense, Interior, etc.), Vice President, or President). Every contract requires no less than eight years (four active, four inactive or national guard duty) which should be met before being able to run for a major public office.

    • Mike Endres December 19, 2019 at 2:46 pm

      Support fields ineligible? Really?
      Ha! I know of damn few in any branch of the military who would go to war without support, even my SF friends.
      Having been in a “support” role as a Nurse during my military career, it’s not the cake walk that many imagine it to be.
      This includes deployments to Korea (’74), Bolivia, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia, and twice to Iraq.
      Since only about 1% of the population actually serves, I’d be happy with just about any honorable service.

      It has always struck me as grossly inequitable that only men have to register for the draft.
      I think everyone should have something invested in this country and serving in some capacity does just that.

  18. Msg. (Retired) Melvin K. Haynes Jr. December 19, 2019 at 9:27 am

    I served twenty years in the Army. There’s plenty of educational opportunities waiting for those who are looking forward to a successful future after military service. I’m a firm believer that all Americans should be required to serve at least four years on active service and four additional years in the national guard or in the in-active reserve, which would complete their obligation to the country. The exclusion for educational reasons should be removed to maintain equality of all serving. No more exclusions. There are some that will require a waiver due to current medical conditions. They too can serve in a capacity of Social Services, assisting the elderly or those who require constant care. There’s a future graduate from the University of Minnesota who has stated that upon her graduation , in May of 2020, she plans to run for office to serve her constituents. This is an example of young people, seeking the political arena instead of even choosing to serve our countries military and security needs first. This has to stop and now. This government waists more time and money reserching issues to death. What are her qualifications for this office? Ms. Olson should serve her country for at least four years active and the remaining years in the guard or in-active reserve. Men should not be the only ones required to serve by draft or voluntary means. We also have a tremendous amount of illegal youth that’s currently being over looked. They too should be vetted and given the same opportunity to serve. FREEDOM IS NEVER FREE!

  19. Vincent Hendren December 19, 2019 at 9:18 am

    All 18 year old men and women should be required to register and be tested for military duty.
    The test should be a test for qualification, drug free, no criminal background.
    The military is not a social fix all program. These individuals hamper the great work the military does around the world.
    For an example, in Vietnam we had one who stole water and rations leaving the rest of us with little or no rations and water
    upon returning from patrols.
    Social behavior issues do not belong in the military, the military is a team effort from small teams to massive teams like divisions.
    Keep it SIMPLE, grow up and follow orders, there is no room for social workers in BOOT CAMP or any where in the military.
    The VA has great help after the war, bu not while on duty.

  20. Paul Stephey December 19, 2019 at 8:54 am

    It’s wrong to force people to do anyting.
    What should be taken into account is the fact that people who do serve should have a voice in the government and people that don’t should not.
    If you don’t serve you can’t vote you can’t be an official.
    Taxation without representation is an unpopular idea.
    Leaders who have never served should not be able to command people to die for their country.

  21. John Compton December 19, 2019 at 8:49 am

    What is the law now as to who and when an individual is required to register for the military? What is to be done with illegal immigrants who as I read are here by the thousands. As to women registering, considering their constant demand for high positions as the men, qualification not considered, yes they should be required to register. How ever I would not want my grand daughters placed in areas with the men in todays world. My grand sons are career Marines.The law regarding conscientious objectors must be changed to read they must serve as all others but may qualify for positions of support for all who serve.

  22. Carolyn J Blue December 19, 2019 at 8:24 am

    I agree all able bodied Americans should serve in some form at least one year. But please don’t forget us “senior citizens”! We are capable of some low impact service, office type jobs and whatever else we can contribute to. I’m 77 so please get this program in gear SOON!!!

  23. Rodney Price December 19, 2019 at 8:23 am

    All 18 to 23 year olds should serve in the military. I did it helps to make a woman or man learn responsesablity.

  24. Anthony DeShong December 19, 2019 at 8:05 am

    While it is not “fair” that only a few bare the burden, mandatory service should not be required except in national emergencies such as WWII. America is not about fair but liberty. We all choose our own path and if serving that choice then so be it. What should be mandatory is ANY politician, minus those who are disabled, should have served in the military for 2-4 years. They need to know what it costs the men and women in uniform to do their jobs. And when they send is to war, they send their children to war. No more hiding behind privilege and pedigrees. That way they have a stake in the game and are less likely to send us away to fight their never ending wars they do not intend to win. That is my two cents.

  25. John Dennis Sanford December 19, 2019 at 7:07 am

    A system can and should be devised to eliminate student deferments. Some military service then college should be built in to the system. Acceptance at academic institutions should be enhanced by prior military service. Service in combat should be greatly rewarded through enhanced academic opportunities.

  26. Mike Minges December 19, 2019 at 5:44 am

    Should women have to serve in the military? Hell yes, 58,220 men (boys) died in Vietnam not counting the one that came home blind, burned to a crisp, missing appendages, with emotional problems, etc. In 15 years a grand total of 8 women died in Vietnam with only one listed as KIA. For this they get a fucking statue? It should be torn down. Where’s their demand for equality now? It’s ass backwards anyway. It depicts women with a plasma bottle waiting for the choppers. All wrong. Women were waaaaay back from the frontlines. I see American women as gutless hypocrites.

    • S W December 19, 2019 at 10:44 am

      Mike, you are a chauvinist. Your remarks are offensive and should not have been allowed. You call women gutless. Well, that’s what I call all men who think it’s ok to RAPE the women who serve with them. Also, there were and still are conflicts other than vietnam. I am so tired of vietnam this vietnam that!!! You vietnam vets get handed everything on a silver platter. including 100% disability while every other vet has to fight and scratch for a decent rating. You men are whiners who go to VA pretending to be worse off than you are just to get a higher rating so you can sit on your lazy asses and get high on pain pills or marijuana. I have yet to see a woman vet whine and lie like you.

  27. Joseph A. DiMeco, Jr retired army December 19, 2019 at 2:28 am

    All citizens ahold serve some countries do it this way 1right after high school or between sophomore and junior years of college or 3 after graduation from college
    Also it is where I overcame and understood racism’s and prejudices which can cloud your leadership abilities
    It is where learned about other people’s struggles to be able to take advantage of all opportunities that were available
    You also learned to work with people from everywhere under all conditions to complete a mission

  28. Ann Perales December 19, 2019 at 12:34 am

    Absolutely….reinstate the draft!!!!!!! I have been advocating for reinstating it for years so these ungrateful young people can learn what it is like to serve and earn the rights and privilege’s they so enjoy in the United States. I am a female veteran, my husband is a veteran, and two of my brothers served in Viet Nam. Men and women both should be required to serve their country and take the burden off of the 1% that currently protect us and our country. If they want to live here then they need to make a contribution. Also, if they believe they are entitled to a free college education, let them serve and earn it…it is called, The G.I. Bill. I am sick of the lazy freeloaders in our country!

    • Brad Zeigler December 19, 2019 at 11:33 am

      Ann, You said it perfectly I need not add one word. My service was 22 years, 11 years of that overseas, then 20 years as a radar and communications technician for the FAA. I saved the tax payers millions of dollars by fixing everything on the cheap the old fashioned way rather than always ordering new expensive parts.

  29. Paul Brown December 19, 2019 at 12:25 am

    What is the difference who registers for anything, we no longer have the draft system in place anymore. I personally think that all the men and boys should register for the draft and anyone who become a citizen should be required to serve this country. If they want to be a citizen, then they must serve this country. Woman can join on their own if they want to. We should also bring the draft back again and leave it in.

  30. Mike Brown December 19, 2019 at 12:11 am

    Regarding the national service, just do it. End the study-it-to-death mind set and implement the program.

  31. Howard Bennis December 18, 2019 at 9:04 pm

    In my opinion, ALL able bodied should serve in some capacity. All 18 year olds should register, both male and female. Serving could include health services, NOAA, FEMA and include training in critical areas, like first response personnel. A minimum of 2 years service (payed) and educational benefits could be an incentive.
    I am a U.S.Army Veteran serving 3 years during Vietnam, 1 Year USAR, 4 Years NG and 18 years (so Far) in a State Defense Force with rank of Chief Warrant officer 4.

  32. Eugene Brooks December 18, 2019 at 7:46 pm

    On your question about service in the military. There should be a law that requires military service before receiving citizenship in our country to include people born here. For those not able to pass the medical exam could serve in other form of service, such as National Defense as computer operators, Communications, Drone flight operators. I am sure there are a lot more M.O.S.’s that do not require marching or fighting with weapons.

    Something to think about. But we know the nambe pambe citizens we already have would not go for this suggestion.

  33. Debra Carleen Roberts December 18, 2019 at 6:28 pm

    All 18 year olds should register regardless of gender.

    Deb Roberts

Comments are closed.

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