Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution, a list of earlier revolutions and the author, Entry #1.

Periodically I write a “sense check” to assess whether in the next few years, a revolution in the US is still possible or whether the entire exercise is based on a statistical aberration — i.e., a roughly 50-year cycle between major upheavals in the US.  Most recent sense check, Entry #365.  

If you want to a diversion, there are easy-to-read booklets for download.  These include:

ENTRY #367 BEGINS.  Blog entry #366 proposed reinstituting conscription and expanding it to include women.  Doing so makes sense only if those “conscripted” can be productive and the output benefit many US citizens.

If implemented, the goals of conscription would be:

  1. Improve understanding with a broader swath of the population how to:
    • Work in teams
    • Work with people who have different skills
    • Work with people from different socio-economic backgrounds
  2. Provide reasonably skilled labor for major government projects, such as rebuilding infrastructure. Think of the 1930s and how the WPA was used for building roads, dams, and other infrastructure throughout the United States.
  3. Create a sense of having served, and being proud of having served the country. Less than 1% of citizens currently serve in the military. In addition, of those who volunteer for the military, most are from families whose members have also served. The current military is supported by a very narrow segment of the population. The current enlistment model is likely unsustainable over time.
  4. Create skills that allow those discharged to find meaningful employment in the private or public sectors.

Key components of a broad-based conscription program would include:

  1. Everyone subjected to conscription at age 18.
  2. Minimal exemptions from serving.
  3. Being able to serve other than in the military. Individuals would have the option to select the military or other agency. If after joining the military, the individual could not meet the physical requirements, the individual would then transfer to a non-military assignment.
  4. Assignments would be throughout the United States, not just near the individual’s hometown.
  5. Assignments outside the US would be available for certain categories.
  6. Basic training would be required for everyone, even those not serving in the military. For anyone who has served in the military, basic training is a memorable experience. For those who have never lived away from home, basic training is an opportunity to begin to understand how the world operates.  The non-military basic training would not be as intense as the military but would have many of the same components: (i) being trained with people of disparate backgrounds; (ii) living in “barracks” for a certain period, including some KP. Total basic training for non-military would be maybe 8 weeks. Advanced training would vary by general assignment but likely not exceed 8 weeks. Depending on assignment, likely additional OJT.
  7. Meaningful tasks. During the time in service, members should be taught a skill that can be used in a meaningful job as well as a skill that can be transferred to the private or public sector once discharged.
  8. Uniform for all serving. While the uniform for non-military assignments would be different from the various military uniforms, requiring a uniform during working hours would help to: (i) designate who is serving their country; (ii) reinforce to the participant that he or she is a member of a team.

US Departments/Agencies where trainees could work include:

  1. Defense – optional. However, if DOD does not meet its recruiting quotas by branch, then some trainees could be assigned to help meet quotas.
  2. Interior.  Participants would work in national parks, for example.
  3. EPA.  Monitor pollution in and sources of pollution in lakes, rivers, air.
  4. Education. Could work at federal facilities – Native American schools, e.g., state facilities – academic institution, or local – neighborhood school. Dep’t of Education would be overall coordinator and manage selection of location.

Time Required to Serve. Two (2) years active service plus four (4) years reserve duty. Reserve would allow government to recall key individuals in critical situations.

Reenlistment. Participant could re-up for an additional two years, including seeking a higher-level position.

Years of Credited Service. Number of years would transfer with the individual if he or she transitioned to a government job, whether federal, state or local level.

Options of When to Serve. All individuals would be expected to begin service not later than age 23. Participant could join immediately after high school, at age 18 to 19. Program would include option to defer service until after college, with a maximum deferral of five years.

Exclusions from Serving. Minimal reasons for not serving.  Bone spurs would not qualify for exclusion. Few would be categorized as “4F.” Even those with physical handicaps would be expected to serve, unless the level of physical handicap was deemed extreme. Every effort, for example, would be made to include people using wheelchairs. For those who are handicapped there might be different level of training and jobs might be somewhat different. Nonetheless, every effort would be made to include them in the “corps.”

Autism Spectrum. To the extent possible all but the most extreme on the autism spectrum would be expected to serve in some capacity. Like those with physical disabilities, training routine and the type of job might be different.

While some might argue against including people with special needs, the service requirement would: (i) help train the individual with some transferable job skills; (ii) help reduce the stigma often associated with some type of perceived disability; (iii) help reduce the long-term cost of care since many will be employed following service and become taxpayers.

Non-Citizens in the US. Would be eligible to serve. Serving would be a path to US citizenship.

While the devil is in the details for large-scale projects, much of the framework to implement a conscription program is already in place. The US military has systems and procedures that could be modified. In addition, a “conscription-for-all” program could be implemented in phases, allowing inevitable kinks to be worked out before the program is expanded to everyone turning age 18.

An argument can be made that with such a low unemployment rate, a “conscription-for-all” program would make finding employees more difficult.  Well, if you look behind the numbers of the unemployment rate, its not as rosy as what the White House promotes.  Many counted as “employed” are in fact workers with low-paying, part-time jobs.

In addition, the economy is not going to grow forever.  There will be another recession, possibly depression. While the likelihood of a depression is the topic for another blog entry, there is ample historical evidence that supports a sharp economic downturn following a period of rapid concentration of wealth and “bubbles” in the financial markets.  Both conditions exist today.

Another reason to support “conscription for all” is to help mitigate the impact of the coming “technology tsunami.”  The tech tsunami will cause a major disruption to the workforce.  For more about the technology tsunami and the likely impact, download Tech Tsunami Booklet with Supplement.

Now, how to get the House and Senate to pass a bill to expand conscription.