June 10, 2016
"Let me ask a question that should be obvious: Why is it that we’re now fighting about drafting our daughters, our sisters, and our mothers when nobody has told us that we need to draft anyone?"
U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) spoke on the Senate floor tonight regarding his amendment to the National Defense Authorization act to stop, study, and sunset the draft.
Sasse's amendment can be found here and his remarks, as prepared for delivery, are found below:
Mr. President: Why is it that Washington always jumps blindly into culture war fights?
Why is it that we first divide into blue shirts versus red shirts, retreat into our tribes, and then maneuver to inflict maximum pain on each other?
That’s not how adults in communities across our land make complicated decisions – but that is what’s happening in this body right now.
The legislation before the Senate is supposed to be about national security – which is the first and the most important responsibility of the federal government. Republican and Democrat, every single member of this body, tells our constituents that we support the troops. And I would hope that every single member of this body means it – and thus agrees that national security is far more important than running up the partisan score in some cultural battle.
But here we are, getting ready to divide again, now over the issue of women in the draft.
Let me ask a question that should be obvious: Why is it that we’re now fighting about drafting our daughters, our sisters, and our mothers when nobody has told us that we need to draft anyone?
Seriously, where is any general telling us that the pressing issue of the day is that they need more bodies in a draft? Where is that happening? Who is telling us this? Because I haven’t heard it from anyone. Not once.
This fight – about women in the draft – is entirely unnecessary. And wisdom should be nudging us to avoid unnecessary fighting. We have enough real and needed fighting.
Before we send our press releases and condemn our opponents, could we just take one minute to recognize this indisputable fact: Our military is already the best fighting force in human history – and it is all-volunteer, and no one is recommending that we change that.
So, rather than needlessly dividing Americans over an obsolete 20th century registration process, let’s do this: Let’s stop the expansion of the draft, let’s study the purpose of the draft, and let’s evaluate whether we really need a draft. Maybe we do, but let’s evaluate it.
Let’s not start by fighting about who else to add to the draft.
Let’s not start by trying to import more culture warring into a national security bill. Let’s start by asking if we are sure we need a draft.
I’m introducing a simple amendment. And I hope this body could agree that it aims toward common sense, and toward a de-escalation of our bitter conflicts. My simple amendment replaces the NDAA’s controversial draft provisions, and does 3 relatively non-controversial …but I think more important things instead:
1. It says that the Senate admits that the draft – which hasn’t issued a call since December of 1972 – when I was ten months old (and I think I’m five years older than the youngest person in this body) – should be reevaluated, rather than continue on auto-pilot forever without scrutiny;
2. It sets a sunset date on the draft for three years from now UNLESS the Congress acts to say that we have consulted with the generals and we believe it is actually needed; and
3. It requires the Secretary of Defense to report to Congress in six months on the merit of a selective service system rather than simply defending the status quo. It doesn’t force the unelected Secretary of Defense to wade into culture wars or social engineering.
Instead, it asks him to consult with the generals and report back telling us one of three things:
· Either they believe the all-volunteer force – which has in actuality been what we’ve done for many years – is sufficient for the human capital needs of the country, and they think the draft is in fact obsolete;
· OR number two, they believe we should be keeping the current draft system;
· OR number three, they believe that the Draft in fact needs to be expanded – and why they believe that.
Again, either the generals think we are fine with an all-volunteer force; OR they think we need as many potential draftees as we have today; OR they think we need more.
If they think we need more, then this body should debate who – maybe men older than age 26; maybe women; who knows?
But let’s first know that they think the Draft is still needed before we fight about who is potentially going to be drafted.
One of the fundamental purposes of this body is to debate – to debate the biggest issues facing our nation, and to do in an honorable way. The Senate is for debate – not as an abstraction, but to be addressing and ultimately solving the meatiest challenges that the Constitution demands we tackle.
If any Senator believes that the purpose of the NDAA should be to have a culture war fight, I urge that Senator to come to the Floor and make her or his case. But if not, then let’s avoid the unnecessary cultural division and stick to the national security tasks at hand this week.
Thank you, Mr. President.