Wednesday, Feb 25th, 2009
A Democratic Senator from Connecticut has introduced four bills aimed at establishing a groundwork for a system of comprehensive national service.
Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., says that the legislation will “create the architecture and the structure that will serve as the invitation for everyone to serve.”
The Senate bills, co-sponsored by Thad Cochran, R-Miss., are companion legislation to bills Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, introduced Tuesday in the House, calling for increases in federal spending for public service programs.
Two of the bills, named the Summer of Service Act and the Semester of Service Act, are particularly aimed at middle school and high school students and will offer “credits” in return for participation in community-service programs.
Some residents and education experts are concerned that such public service programs may become part of student graduation requirements.
A third bill, named The Encore Service Act, offers cash awards to people aged 55 and over who complete 250 or 500 hours of public service. In return for their service, participants would also receive an education award which could be transferred to their children or grandchildren.
A fourth bill, The ACTION Act, is aimed at increasing awards for AmeriCorps volunteers and reestablishing the Corporation’s connection with federal agencies. The bill would also grant the Corporation for National Service Cabinet-level status under the Obama administration.
Sen. Dodd is reintroducing the bills which he previously failed to bring to a vote.
Dodd told the media that the legislation is a response to President Obama’s call in his inaugural address for national service.
”People ask me why I joined – I joined because the president asked,” Dodd said. “We’ve got a president who’s asking.”
We have previously highlighted the eagerness that the new president and his staff have displayed in calling for a system of national service.
Back in July 2008, Obama, then the presidential front runner, called for a “civilian national security force” as powerful as the U.S. military.
“We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded,” Obama told a Colorado Springs audience.
The comments that were ignored by the vast majority of the corporate media but were found to be troubling by some independent journalists who compared the idea to the formation of the Nazi Hitler Youth.
Fears of “youth brigades” or civilian stasi style units increased following Obama’s appointment of Rahm Emanuel to chief-of staff.
In his book, “The Plan: Big Ideas for America,” Emanuel writes: “It’s time for a real Patriot Act that brings out the patriot in all of us. We propose universal civilian service for every young American. Under this plan, all Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 will be asked to serve their country by going through three months of basic training, civil defense preparation and community service.”
The book also notes, “Some Republicans will squeal about individual freedom, ruling out any likelihood that they would let people opt out of universal citizen service.”
Emanuel is also an enthusiastic supporter of the United States Public Service Academy Act, a lobbying group founded in 2006 in order to promote the foundation of an American public service academy modeled on the military academies – a youth corps whose students would be trained in “civilian internship in the armed forces”.
Furthermore, in a rediscovered 2006 audio clip of an interview with Ben Smith of the New York Daily News, Emanuel outlined the agenda for compulsory military-style training, essentially a domestic draft, aimed at preparing Americans for a chemical or biological terrorist attack.
When controversy arose over the program last November, the use of the word “required” to describe the program was removed from Obama’s change.gov website and replaced with “community service” type terminology.
Last month we also reported on the introduction by the Department of Defense of a “civilian expeditionary workforce” that will see American civilians trained and equipped to deploy overseas in support of worldwide military missions.
Though the civilian expeditionary workforce program is restricted to DoD employees, similar programs have already been established for public sector workers.
One such program has seen hundreds of police, firefighters, paramedics and utility workers recently trained and dispatched as “Terrorism Liaison Officers” in Colorado, Arizona and California to watch for “suspicious activity” which is later fed into a secret government database.