1. Statement
  2. U.S. Wars & Militarism

Diane Randall Testifies Before the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service

April 25, 2019


On April 25, 2019, the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service hosted a public hearing on policy options related to selected service.

The hearing--entitled "Should Registration be Expanded to All Americans?"--provided a public venue through which leaders could weigh in on changes to the Selective Service System, also known as the military draft.

The commission is holding 14 hearings throughout the U.S. Through each hearing, commissioners will gain insights from panelists as they develop recommendations for their final report to Congress, the President, and the American people in March 2020.

Diane Randall was invited to testify in the hearing against expansion in Washington, D.C. Watch the recording or read the full text of her testimony below.


Testimony before the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service

Good morning. My name is Diane Randall and I am the Executive Secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). Thank you for inviting me to take part in this important conversation on military conscription.

This call to refuse killing and fighting is based on Quakers’ understanding of living in the Kingdom of God—as here and now; that we can have a direct relationship with Christ; and that experience with Divine Love calls us to live in peace and with integrity.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation was founded in 1943 by members of the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers. From those early days – amid the Second World War -– we have opposed universal conscription based on the principle of individual conscience. Many Friends and likeminded Americans throughout history have exercised the call of their inward religious and moral conviction to oppose war and avoid coerced participation in violence that would be required by military service.

This call to refuse killing and fighting is based on Quakers’ understanding of living in the Kingdom of God—as here and now; that we can have a direct relationship with Christ; and that experience with Divine Love calls us to live in peace and with integrity.

Today, the Friends Committee lobbies Congress and the administration to advance peace, racial and economic justice, and environmental stewardship. We are a nonpartisan organization, governed by a body of 180 Quakers from across the United States. FCNL seeks to live the Quaker values of integrity, simplicity, and peace as we build relationships across political divides to advance public policy for a more just and peaceful world.

FCNL seeks a world free of war and the threat of war. We oppose the militarization of our foreign and domestic policy, including the training of foreign military personnel. We oppose the use of military personnel in domestic policing, as is happening along our southern border. And we oppose treating war as another tool or instrument of foreign policy, especially when development, diplomacy, and so many other nonmilitary tools have shown to be more beneficial in both the short and long term.

These are not beliefs born of convenience or cowardice. They are the deeply held foundational moorings of our faith, a faith protected by the First Amendment.

FCNL opposes all compulsory military conscription or a draft. We disagree that there is a “continuing need for a mechanism to draft large numbers of replacement combat troops” into the armed forces. As historian Will Durant wrote in 1967, “the possession of power tempts to its use; the definition of national interest widens to cover any aim; the demand for security suggests and excuses the acquisition and arming of ever more distant frontiers.”

Endless armies and endless money for the Pentagon perpetuate endless war. The costs of war in terms of human lives is too expensive to ponder.

Endless armies and endless money for the Pentagon perpetuate endless war. The costs of war in terms of human lives is too expensive to ponder.

The current U.S. global military footprint is already far too large. The United States is currently conducting military operations in 80 countries around the globe. In Africa alone, United States has in recent years conducted at least 36 military operations in 19 countries.

According to the Congressional Research Service, the law that authorized the use of force in Afghanistan in 2001 has been used to justify 41 operations in 19 countries. These wars have cost more than $5.9 trillion and resulted in the deaths of approximately 500,000 people, including approximately 250,000 civilians and 15,000 U.S. military personnel and contractors.

These military operations have not made the United States more secure; to the contrary, the number of terrorist groups and incidents keeps on growing.

The discrimination within the current system, based on gender, age and socioeconomic status requires only young men to register, and only those without significant financial means suffer the consequences of refusing to do so. The answer is not to require women to register, but to end the requirement for selective service registration and eliminate the penalties for failing to register. At a minimum, we support legal accommodation for conscientious objection to military service and military taxation. Individuals who decline to register with the selective service as an act of conscience should not be penalized from any benefits and opportunities provided by our federal government.

The answer is not to require women to register, but to end the requirement for selective service registration and eliminate the penalties for failing to register.

Some have argued that compulsory national service, with an option for nonmilitary service for conscientious objectors, would be more democratic than the current, voluntary system, and would make the United States less likely to use its forces abroad. We disagree. While we know public service can benefit our communities and our faith tradition upholds service to and for others as a value of the utmost importance, we believe individuals must have the freedom to discern whether and how they will serve.

The United States was founded as a haven for people of free will seeking to, at long last, toss off the yoke of oppression and find a safe harbor for those of conscience. Some 200 plus years later, our nation is still standing. And those who choose to stand for peace above all else are still welcome and safe here. Now is not the time to change that by expanding selective service registration or creating a new system of compulsory national service.

Update "I am part of a generation that has not meaningfully known a country that is at peace." 

FCNL Young Fellow, Chris Kearns-McCoy offers a public comment before the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service

On April 25, 2019, the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service hosted a public hearing on policy options related to selected service, also known as the military draft.