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Congressman Charles Rangel

Representing the 13th District of New York

Rangel Introduces Universal National Service Act

March 17, 2011
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Charles Rangel on Thursday introduced the Universal National Service Act, commonly referred to as the draft bill, ahead of the 8th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq on Saturday, March 19, 2011. The Congressman, a Korean War Veteran, has introduced similar legislation in the past that addresses not only the need for a more equitable military draft, but also establishes a universal requirement for National Service.

"The test for Congress, particularly for those members who support the war, is to require all who enjoy the benefits of our democracy to contribute to the defense of the country," said Rangel. "So few families have a stake in the war because it is being fought by other people's children."

Despite being called an "all-volunteer" army, Rangel notes that economic reasons drive many of our nation's military recruits to join the armed forces in addition to patriotism.

"The largest segment of our fighting force comes from large urban centers with high unemployment, and from economically depressed small towns," said Rangel. "This small portion of the population forces many soldiers to take multiple tours of duty, sometimes as many as six deployments."

H.R. 1152 would reduce the burden and sacrifice that the 1% of the American population makes in defending our nation by requiring 30 million people in the United States between the ages of 18 and 25 to perform two years of national service in either the armed services or in civilian life.

"We make decisions about war without worry over who fights them. Those who do the fighting have no choice; when the flag goes up, they salute and follow orders," Rangel said.

Current statistics regarding the well-being of our troops are staggering. Presently, 25% of all active duty members in the Armed forces suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The Army's current suicide rate is at an all time high, and the suicide rate in the Marine Corps is even higher. This is in addition to the 5,900 fallen and 38,000 wounded soldiers as a consequence of our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
By mandating a two-year term of national service, the Universal National Service Act will improve the well-being and vitality of our nation's servicemen and women and will more effectively provide for the defense of the United States.

"The question of whether we need a draft will be important as long as this country is placing thousands of its young men and women in harm's way," said Rangel.

According to Rangel, universal national service would a positive bonding experience for an entire generation to give back to their country. 

"It'll be the Peacecorps for our own country. And we wouldn't be starting from scratch, but instead building on the current community service infrastructure that we have through national programs like Americorps or local initiatives like NYC Serve," said Rangel.

"From helping to rebuild New Orleans, providing security at our nation's ports, or working in areas of extreme poverty in this country, there are plenty of jobs that will not only help our young adults learn about their country, but also provide them with invaluable experiences and training that will  enrich their lives. "


The Universal National Service Act Of 2011, originally introduced as the nation prepared for the invasion of Iraq, would provide for:

•    A national service obligation—either military or civilian--for every citizen and permanent resident, male and female, of the U.S., aged 18 to 25

•    Persons may inducted to perform military service only if a declaration of war is in effect, or if the President declares a national emergency necessitating the induction of persons to perform military service and immediately informs Congress of the reasons for the declaration.

•    Defines "national service" as either military or civilian service as defined by the President that promotes national or homeland security.

•    Give the President the authority to establish the numbers of persons to be selected for national service and the means of selection.

•    Directs the President to prescribe the regulations necessary to carry out the act.

•    Deferments for education through the age of 24 if they are full time students.

•    Deferments may be made for physical or mental disability, or under claims of conscientious objector.

Watch the Congressman give his remarks on the floor: