|By Colin Gallagher (188.8.131.52) on Saturday, October 15, 2005 - 1:03 am: Edit Post|
As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served in El Salvador (1998 - 2000) and having served in the past as a Board Representative for the NorCal Peace Corps Association (the second largest such Association in the United States) during a time when debate was raging over threats to Peace Corps independence, I would like to respond to Francis Brad Henry's October 8 letter to the editor in the New York Times, as well as Colman McCarthy's article in the Washington Post welcoming soldiers to the Peace Corps.
In his letter regarding the National Call to Service program, Mr. Henry stated that "Peace Corps must be scrapped before any military person is signed up." Let's hope that doesn't happen, because according to Gaddi Vasquez, the Director of the Peace Corps, there are right now at least two inactive military personnel a month who are being invited to serve as Peace Corps Volunteers. And the presence of inactive or "ex-military" in the Peace Corps is nothing new. Since the early days of Peace Corps,applications by inactive military - e.g., someone who had four years of active duty and / or reserve service - have been evaluated by the Peace Corps with case-by-case determinations made as to whether or not these persons can be accepted to Peace Corps. Those found worthy are accepted and some do end up being exceptional Peace Corps Volunteers. Peace Corps obviously does not want there to be a negative perception of Volunteers by the very people that the Peace Corps intends to serve, nor does Peace Corps want people in its service who would compromise the mission of Peace Corps. In fact, the U.S. Code itself contains the Congressional declaration of purpose for Peace Corps, which reads in part, "The Congress of the United States declares that it is the policy of the United States and the purpose of this chapter to promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps(..)" In years prior to the Vasquez directorship of Peace Corps, the agency has made consistent efforts to ensure that there will not even be a perception of a connection between military or intelligence agencies and Peace Corps.
However, there is now a clear conflict between the Congressional declaration of purpose for Peace Corps and the goals of the National Call to Service (NCS) program. The problem with the NCS program - which was actually approved by Congress in December 2002, and will be reviewed in 2007 to determine if it may continue in 2007 - is threefold. First, the NCS program provides a means for practically anyone who has served in the military for three years and three months, to complete their service obligation in any of a number of options -- active duty, Selected Reserve, Individual Ready Reserve, the Peace Corps, or some other national service program designated by the Secretary of Defense and the head of the national service program. The inactive military person must still apply and get accepted by Peace Corps, but this creates potential for shortening the timeframe between military training and Peace Corps service, particularly when the applicant is in a military field that provides training through the duration of active-duty military service. As well, with Peace Corps service being put forth as satisfaction of military service, it has significant potential to create a negative perception of Peace Corps by foreign governments and host country nationals alike. In fact, in late December of 2002, just after the NCS / Peace Corps arrangement cleared Congress, the Russian government terminated arrangements with Peace Corps, and the Director of the Russian Federal Security Service alleged that Peace Corps Volunteers had been "collecting information about social, political and economic situation in the Russian regions." forcing many Volunteers to leave Russia and barring future Peace Corps Volunteers from entering. One must wonder, if the NCS program was approved in December 2002 and Peace Corps agreements
with Russia were terminated that same month, might not similar problems arise in other countries whose governments and people have concerns regarding American militarism in the world at large?
The second problem regarding the NCS program is that despite the assurances from Peace Corps dating as far back as April 16 of 2002 that Peace Corps is "independent and an autonomous as ever," the law of our country says otherwise. The Executive Order which created the Office of Homeland Security states that "All executive departments and agencies are directed to assist the Council and the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security in carrying out the purposes of this order (...) "Executive departments and agencies shall, to the extent permitted by law, make available to the Office all information relating to terrorist threats and activities within the United States." The Patriot Act states that "The Attorney General shall, in consultation with the Director of Central Intelligence, carry out a program to provide appropriate training to... officials of the Federal Government who are not ordinarily engaged in the collection, dissemination, and use of foreign intelligence in the performance of their duties, and officials of State and local governments who encounter or may encounter foreign intelligence in the performance of their duties, to assist such officials in identification and utilization of foreign intelligence information." It's our defense personnel who are charged with these matters, but there is now no legal distinction between military service and Peace Corps service, with respect to satisfaction of military service obligation. Thus, with Peace Corps as a service option in the NCS program, the perception of who is a Peace Corps Volunteer and who is (or might be) defense personnel - acting under national security law and obligation - is now blurred.
Sargent Shriver, one of the founders of the Peace Corps, was assured by President Kennedy at the time when Peace Corps was coming into being that the CIA would not attempt to infiltrate the Peace Corps and would not enlist former Volunteers until at least ten years after their Peace Corps service. Kennedy personally relayed this message to Allen Dulles and John McCone, the two CIA directors of the period. The continued efforts since 2002 by the U.S. government to connect inactive military personnel to the Peace Corps as a "service option" are not only completely contrary to the spirit of the agreement made by Kennedy, they are a violation of the Congressional declaration purpose for the Peace Corps.
The final problem with the NCS program is the simple fact that we are in a period where the Peace Corps is growing significantly. This growth, coupled with the addition of as many as two or more inactive duty military personnel per month to the Peace Corps, can change the growing face of Peace Corps. If we believe Director Vasquez's estimation of 2 inactive military personnel joining the ranks of Peace Corps per month, and we assume that each of those inactive military persons serve two years in Peace Corps, then that means that since 1996, at least two-hundred and sixteen inactive military came to serve in the Peace Corps and of those, at least fifty are serving today. Because Peace Corps has grown by 433 Volunteers (and trainees) since March of 1996, that means that active duty military is now at least 11 and one-half percent of the face of our NEW Peace Corps, with an unknown portion of that percentage being applicants received through the NCS program. Looking at the way things are going, it is a safe bet that if the option is left in place through the NCS program to apply for Peace Corps as satisfaction of service, we will have much more than two inactive military persons per month being accepted to Peace Corps as time goes on.
In 2002, President Bush asked the Peace Corps, in his State of the Union Address, to "join a new effort to encourage development, and education, and opportunity, in the Islamic world." Peace Corps has now grown to have 7,733 Volunteers and trainees, and will continue to grow in the near future. Ask yourself: What is the message seen by to the Islamic world (not to mention the rest of the world) of America today? Is it a positive image, of free people with good morals and principles, reaching out to help others? Is it a negative image, of a harsh government, or an image of armies moving upon a desert town? Or is it both? We don't need to add to the problem by further blurring the distinction between those two images. The NCS program should be ended at the earliest possible opportunity. Congressman Kline, a Republican
from Minnesota who served for 25 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, and served as a military aide to both Carter and Reagan, has introduced legislation that would remove the Peace Corps as an option in the NCS program. We as citizens should support Congressman Kline and encourage all of our elected leaders to do the same. (You can do so by linking to http://www.congress.org/congressorg/home/ and entering your zip-code.)
We may have to put up with this Administration's antics in the short-term. But in the long term, the stance of the Returned Peace Corps community is, and must remain, NO to militarism, NO to McCarthyism, and YES to Peace and an Independent Peace Corps!
|By MajorOz (184.108.40.206.dyn.centurytel.net - 220.127.116.11) on Wednesday, November 09, 2005 - 8:57 pm: Edit Post|
Colin was obviously not a math major (or even logic: post hoc, ergo propter hoc -- NOT!)
|By Mr. Colin G. Gallagher, RPCV (18.104.22.168) on Friday, December 23, 2005 - 2:58 am: Edit Post|
It is you who needs to learn math. Take a look at the figures and think about it in the context of an assumed two-year service period. And think beyond the math: take a really close read of the Congressional Declaration of Purpose for the Peace Corps as contained in the Peace Corps Act.
In truth though you need not worry about it any longer. The argument of reasonable and intelligent RPCVs has won out. (See below)
THURS DEC 22 2005 [NPCAAdvocacy] FLASH: Congressional Victory on Peace Corps/Military Recruitment
It is with great pleasure that the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) writes to inform you of a congressional victory on the Peace
Corps/military recruitment issue! We encourage you to share this message with other
interested members of the Peace Corps community.
Late last night on a voice vote, the United States Senate completed congressional action on the Department of Defense Authorization Act for
Fiscal Year 2006**. Included in this comprehensive defense legislation is
language to remove Peace Corps from the National Call to Service (NCS) military recruitment program. This action will end the link between
military recruitment and Peace Corps that may have changed perceptions of volunteers and thereby affected their safety and effectiveness, as well as potentially challenging Peace Corps’ independence.
The Defense Authorization bill was approved by the House of Representatives earlier this week.
Before the Defense Authorization bill becomes law, President Bush needs to sign it. While it may be several weeks before this occurs, all
indications are that the President will sign the bill, thereby removing Peace Corps from
the NCS program and ending this formal linkage between military recruitment and Peace Corps.
(**The Defense Authorization bill is different from the Defense Appropriations bill, which has been the subject of extended and contentious
debate, primarily over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.)
National Peace Corps Association President Kevin Quigley, Board Chair Ken Hill, and the entire Board of Directors wish to extend thanks and
gratitude to the many who joined us and played critically important roles in this legislative victory:
--First, we thank the thousands of individuals who have taken action over the past six months. Your comments, phone calls, e-mails, faxes and
letters-to-the-editor conveyed to Congress that a highly unified national constituency was concerned about this issue. Your outreach helped to create strong bi-partisan congressional support in favor of removing Peace
Corps from the NCS program.
--In the House of Representatives, we are especially thankful to Congressman John Kline for his leadership. As a member of the Armed Services Committee with 25 years of service in the Marine Corps, Congressman Kline’s understanding of NPCA’s concern resulted in the drafting of legislation that served as a vehicle for our supporters to reach out to their
representatives. We are also extremely thankful to the 38 Representatives
who co-sponsored the Kline legislation, including RPCV Congressmen Sam
Farr and Mike Honda of California.
--In the United States Senate, we are especially thankful to the offices of Senators Chris Dodd (CT), Edward Kennedy (MA) and John Warner (VA) for drafting an amendment based on the Kline legislation, including it in the
Senate version of the defense authorization bill, and shepherding the amendment through to final passage.
--We are grateful to the leadership displayed by a bi-partisan group of former Peace Corps Directors (including Carol Bellamy, Joseph
Blatchford, Nick Craw, Mark Gearan, Donald Hess and Mark Schneider) who signed a letter
prepared by the NPCA calling for the removal of Peace Corps from the NCS program and communicated their concerns with legislators. These directors demonstrated that this was not a partisan issue, nor was it an attempt
to denigrate military service. Their concern was simply to ensure the safety and effectiveness of serving volunteers by preserving the separation of Peace Corps from the military which has been central to the Peace Corps experience during the past 44 years. A special thanks to Mark Schneider, who was deeply involved in the legislative effort.
--Thanks to members of NPCA affiliate groups who played an important
The discussion on our group leaders listserv and other activities (from
group-sponsored discussions and resolutions, to information sharing and
polling on Peace Corps Online, to mobilization with certain members of
Congress) reinforced to NPCA Staff and Board that there was
support in favor of this change.
--Last, and certainly not least, we are grateful for the support
by many within the Peace Corps community who have also served in the
military. The NPCA leadership expects and hopes that qualified men and
women in uniform will continue to apply for, and be accepted for Peace
service. At the same time, we are pleased that the
change to the National Call to Service law will restore a much-needed
distinction between these two very different but important forms of
We came together as a community to protect the safety and effectiveness
volunteers and to help ensure the independence of the Peace Corps.
Please take a moment to celebrate! Together, we have scored an
Jonathan Pearson (Micronesia 87 - 89)
National Peace Corps Association
1900 L Street NW, Suite 205
Washington, DC 20036
202-293-7728, ext. 21
Please Support the NPCA through the Combined Federal Campaign by
#1148 on your CFC form.
|By MajorOz (ppp037.man.centurytel.net - 22.214.171.124) on Wednesday, May 03, 2006 - 11:03 pm: Edit Post|
Colin said: "In truth though you need not worry about it any longer. The argument of reasonable and intelligent RPCVs has won out. (See below)"
Interesting. I had passed this up as simple gloating, but, in retrospect, felt something had to be pointed out.
Colin uses the "preacher's" arguement -- "...all correct thinking people believe that...".
Given that his evident position is that winning proves who was "reasonable and intelligent" (and he will, no doubt try to weasel out of it, but his evident lack of logic will fail him), he is forced to agree that GWB was twice elected by reasonable and intelligent people.
oz, reasonable and intelligent, but does not suffer fools
|By Colin Gallagher (126.96.36.199) on Monday, May 08, 2006 - 5:49 am: Edit Post|
You are at it again, I see. The horse is dead, Oz. But since you're beating it, I should take a moment to remind you that I never said, as you have claimed, that "all correct thinking people believe..."
I think you are referring to my statement (above) in which I said, and I quote, "The argument of reasonable and intelligent RPCVs has won out."
A "reasonable and intelligent" RPCV would, in my view, and evidently in the view of a majority of our elected representatives, agree that it is inappropriate to include the Peace Corps in the NCS program, and in point of fact, the President agreed to legislative language to that effect.
But Oz, be realistic... it isn't because (as you have argued my reasoning to be) that "winning proves who was "reasonable and intelligent." "Winning," if that is what you want to call the marginal legislative victory that left the U.S. Peace Corps with the barest of vestiges of agency independence, is not what "makes right," and certainly is not the substance or grounds for my argument or logic on this issue.
As I have repeatedly pointed out to you, Oz, the Congressional declaration of purpose for Peace Corps, reads in part, "The Congress of the United States declares that it is the policy of the United States and the purpose of this chapter to promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps(..)" Further reading of the Peace Corps Act will lead you to see that the law provides for, and intends, agency independece for the U.S. Peace Corps.
A "reasonable and intelligent" person can see this and without controversy or convoluted reasoning can conclude that having active duty military personnel in the U.S. Peace Corps who are using the agency to satisfy a term of military service obligation is not consistent with either U.S. Peace Corps legal standards for agency independence, nor is it consistent with DoD (Dept. of Defense) goals for retention and utilization of military personnel with specialized skills. However, to illustrate the point emphatically -- as my argument was presented prior to the legislative matter (of whether to keep Peace Corps in the NCS program) being decided -- I provided detailed documentation of how "blurring the lines" can be detrimental to our country and the world (the Russian incident of the termination of the Peace Corps program being but one example).
If, Oz, you are as "reasonable and intelligent" as you say you are, why do you not then either (a) see the light and realize that you are in fact wrong on this issue (and that those who communicated with Congress to oppose a Peace Corps / NCS mixture were right), and move on, or (b) take heart in your single-minded determination that you are right, and go before Congress and the President to tell them why they should reverse their decision on Peace Corps and the NCS program?
Remember Oz, as you yourself have pointed out in another forum (Heinlein)... "we are the United States, not the United People..." (major oz, Aug. 31, 2000) We each have the right to our opinions, but opinions alone are pointless really, unless we are willing to take action based on them.
|By MajorOz (ppp-73.ras.man.centurytel.net - 188.8.131.52) on Monday, May 29, 2006 - 6:16 pm: Edit Post|
You out researched me.
oz, whose ego is not (quite) large enough to help turn this into an ng
|By Anonymous (adsl-76-235-158-66.dsl.pltn13.sbcglobal.net - 184.108.40.206) on Sunday, September 16, 2007 - 3:03 pm: Edit Post|
For a time, the inclusion of Peace Corps in NCS allowed the words "you can do part of your time in the Peace Corps" to be thrown around during the negotiations between recruiters and recruitees- to overcome common objections to the IRR contract.
I remember years ago how freaky that contract looked when they put it in front of me. I almost reconsidered and backed out at that point. I thought I was signing up for 6 and the contract said in no uncertain terms that I was essentially theirs for 8. If there was a war of any kind, I would not be free to get on with my life, go to college, or go kayaking in Nepal.
Everyone who joins the military realizes that they might spend one year in a fight somewhere- but nobody wants to spend 4/4, 6 out of 6, or 8/8 years fighting in three different combat zones from Afghanistan to Iraq to Iran to Syria and beyond. Indeed, I know people who have been to Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq twice, one guy feels lucky to be hiding out on the DMZ just south of North Korea for two years, after which they may indeed find themselves in Iraq again, or perhaps Syria or Iran. All of them are proud to serve, but with each additional tour, they start to wonder when their luck might run out.
I believe that NCS used this as a short-term recruiting gimmick, which given the current political climate and recruiting shortfalls, got approved at high levels. Unfortunately, it could have a long-term impact on the Peace Corps for the next few years. Worse, it will be hard to tell what that impact is and how deep it is.
In actuality, very few soldiers are likely to derail their careers by changing tack, invest time in applying to the Peace Corps, and move to Guyana- especially if they have a wife, a motorcycle, and two car payments by that time.
I for one don't see the problem with either choice. However, there is a long-established distinction between the two roles and paths that lead to each. Cross-pollination can certainly benefit both organizations, but 2 years of votech school or 4 years of college can benefit just about anyone and make them a better volunteer and shouldn't be an immovable barrier to anyone who really wants to be a PCV.
As for the issue of intel- military intel is somewhat distinct from more holistic intel and if the govt truly wants cheap and useful info other than fish catches & municipal water graphs, they should ramp up the activities of the Commerce Dept overseas (and cut them here) and hire more statesmen & lower level field operatives who are willing to start at FS3 or 4.
I doubt that there is any intent here to pump PCVs for info and the laws cited above are merely intended to lubricate domestic investigations of terrorist activity, possibly to skirt the penumbra of the US constitution to achieve these goals.
Besides, foreign intel structures and even local individuals are much better at getting these things directly from their citizens if it can't be gleaned from the internet or satellites. There is no need to plant english teachers and health advisors all over the world with that end in mind. The blatant and obvious risks would outweigh the questionable benefits such an arrangement might yield.