2007.01.26: January 26, 2007: Headlines: Presidents - Bush: Civilian Reserve Corps: Boston Globe: No specifics in Bush's call for civilian service

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Peace Corps Library: Presidents: President George W. Bush: 2007.01.30: January 30, 2007: Headlines: Expansion: Politics: Budget: Presidents - Bush: Speaking Out: Appropriations: Congress: Washington Times: Is the Civilian Reserve just another throwaway applause line in Bush's State of the Union speech? : 2007.01.26: January 26, 2007: Headlines: Presidents - Bush: Civilian Reserve Corps: Boston Globe: No specifics in Bush's call for civilian service

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No specifics in Bush's call for civilian service

No specifics in Bush's call for civilian service

Bush called for an army of civilians on Tuesday that he said "would ease the burden on the armed forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them. And it would give people across America who do not wear the uniform a chance to serve in the defining struggle of our time." But when asked yesterday to provide details on the president's proposal, White House aides had little to offer. Harris Wofford , a former Democratic senator from Pennsylvania, helped establish the Peace Corps in the Kennedy administration . He said it is up to Bush to rally the country. "You need people recognizing there is a tremendous need," he said in an interview yesterday. "I think you need a president who not only makes a speech and issues the call, but follows through."

No specifics in Bush's call for civilian service

No specifics in Bush's call for civilian service

By Bryan Bender, Globe Staff | January 26, 2007

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's proposal in his State of the Union speech to establish a "Civilian Reserve Corps" marks the latest call to mobilize Americans following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but like other calls to national service by Bush and both parties in Congress -- most of which have not materialized -- it is heavy on rhetoric but lacks an actual plan.

Bush called for an army of civilians on Tuesday that he said "would ease the burden on the armed forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them. And it would give people across America who do not wear the uniform a chance to serve in the defining struggle of our time."

But when asked yesterday to provide details on the president's proposal, White House aides had little to offer.

"How this corps would be designed and established, and how [government] resources would support this effort, would need to be determined," White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said yesterday. "We are looking forward to working with interested members of Congress on how best to develop this idea."

Appeals to the public to sacrifice for the greater good have been made by Republicans and Democrats in recent years. But unlike some previous times of emergency in American history, efforts to mobilize greater numbers of citizens since 2001 have mostly come up short, according to government statistics and social scientists who blame a lack of leadership, funding, and general public apathy.

In his 2002 State of the Union address, Bush called on "every American to commit at least two years -- 4,000 hours over the rest of your lifetime -- to the service of your neighbors and your nation."

Bush established a coordinating council known as the USA Freedom Corps to oversee national service programs such as the Peace Corps and its domestic counterpart, Americorps. He also called for doubling the size of the Peace Corps to 14,000 over an unspecified period.

The number of Peace Corps volunteers, however, remains stagnant at 7,729, while the administration's proposed 27 percent increase in funding last year died in the budget process. And despite a highly touted bipartisan congressional proposal to increase Americorps fivefold to 250,000, the Clinton-era program still hovers between 50,000 and 75,000, and for the first time this year is set to consist of primarily part-timers, according to officials.

"Throughout the last 100 years, national service has waxed and waned depending on the administration that is in office," said Amanda McBride , research director at the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis. "Bush has embraced service, but not with the requisite funding to even run the programs."

Congressional leaders of both parties have also offered grand proposals that failed to reach fruition.

There was a flurry of bills introduced in the House and Senate seeking to energize the country immediately after the 2001 attacks that never were signed into law. They included the Universal Military Training and Service Act, the Youth Service Scholarship Act, and the Unity in Service to America Act, among many others. There was also the Call to Service Act, co sponsored by Senators John McCain , Republican of Arizona, and Evan Bayh , Democrat of Indiana, to increase Americorps, which received much initial attention but fell by the wayside.

In the years since, according to the database at the Library of Congress , no fewer than 44 other proposals involving national service have been put forward in Congress. None have been enacted into law.

Still, the United States has a long history of rousing its citizens to national service short of donning a military uniform.

The Civilian Conservation Corps, established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, enlisted 500,000 unemployed men at its peak to build bridges and clear trails during the Great Depression. The Peace Corps, established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, drew 15,000 volunteers at its peak to serve in poor nations.

During the Vietnam war, then-Governor Ronald W. Reagan created the California Ecology Corps for the large number of conscientious objectors who avoided the military draft. And President Carter established the Young Adult Conservation Corps in 1977.

Proposals similar to Bush's new call for civilians to support the military overseas have been made before, but without success. The National Defense University called for a civilian force in 2003, as did the Pentagon's Defense Science Board and the United States Institute of Peace in 2004.

The idea is to have a pool of skilled civilians such as legal specialists, police, or engineers "that can be utilized in a whole range of situations where civilian expertise would be helpful, such as in Sudan or Haiti," said Carlos Pascual , former coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization at the State Department who pushed a similar proposal calling for 3,000 civilians when he worked in the administration.

In her statement yesterday, Lawrimore said, "The President knows that the skill and generosity of the American people are vital resources and critical tools in the global war on terror" and "sees merit in a corps of civilian professionals who are trained and ready to provide 'just in time' surge capability to assist countries as they cope with crises, build civil societies, and recover from tyranny."

But Pascual and others were skeptical that any such program will survive the budget process. "You need funding to be able to recruit people, select people, train people, and maintain them," Pascual said. "None of those resources have ever been appropriated."

Others said far more leadership from politicians and a commitment from the public are needed to realize these goals.

"There are a lot of voluntary programs out there and people haven't signed up," said retired General Wesley K. Clark , who advanced a similar proposal to Bush's when he sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004. "It's lack of an ethic and lack of a message from bully pulpit to [call for people] sacrifice."

Harris Wofford , a former Democratic senator from Pennsylvania, helped establish the Peace Corps in the Kennedy administration . He said it is up to Bush to rally the country.

"You need people recognizing there is a tremendous need," he said in an interview yesterday. "I think you need a president who not only makes a speech and issues the call, but follows through."

Bender can be reached at bender@globe.com.
© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.




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Story Source: Boston Globe

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