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Congressional Affairs

Agency Gets Caught in the Budget Impasse

With the many other Federal departments and agencies funded under H.R. 2099, the bill covering the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and various independent agencies, the Selective Service System began FY 1996 without an approved budget. SSS continued operations under a series of 12 continuing resolutions into April 1996, and was impacted by the two government "shutdowns." Virtually all SSS personnel were furloughed for six days beginning November 14, 1995, when a stopgap continuing resolution expired and Congress and the President reached an impasse on new stopgap legislation.

As fall turned into winter, the VA-HUD funding bill continued to have problems in Congress. Although both the House and Senate-passed versions of the bill contained funding for Selective Service at the $22.93 million level (matching the FY 1995 appropriation, but $374,000 below the President's FY 1996 requested level of funding), major points of contention remained in other parts of the bill. Differences regarding National Service, HUD, Environmental Protection Agency, and VA medical care programs prevented timely completion of legislative action on H.R. 2099. Late in the process, the bill received a Presidential veto on December 18, 1995, because members of the Administration remained unhappy about many of its provisions. Progress on H.R. 2099 and four other spending bills stalled. SSS employees, along with nearly 800,000 Federal employees in nine departments and dozens of agencies, were again furloughed, this time from December 16, 1995, to January 7, 1996.

Omnibus appropriations legislation was passed by the Congress and signed into law by the President on April 26, 1996, which established funding for the balance of the fiscal year.

FY 1997 Budget Process Much Easier

On April 24, 1996, Director Coronado testified on the Selective Service portion of the President's budget before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies. The event was highlighted by the attendance of a young man whose recent registration was soon to be nationally recognized. Jerry Lewis, Jr., of Rankin, Texas, was the 35 millionth man to register since reinstatement of the requirement in 1980. Through the courtesy of one of the major airlines, Jerry and his father, Jerry Lewis, Sr., were flown to Washington, D.C. Young Jerry was honored by the Secretary of Defense and met Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Lewis (no relation). In a brief ceremony on the east side of the Capitol, Chairman Lewis presented the young man with the "world's largest draft card." The media coverage of this "photo op" resulted in a "Jerry Lewis Times Three" photograph, that appeared nationwide via Associated Press, and was featured on "NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw." The Texas Lewises were also treated to a Capitol Dining Room lunch by Congressman Henry Bonilla, in whose district they live. They also met New York Congressman Gerald B. Solomon.

In a change from prior years, Director Coronado was not called upon to testify in person before the Senate Subcommittee on VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies, but he submitted written testimony.

Both the House and Senate versions of the FY 1997 VA-HUD appropriations bill (H.R. 3666) contained an identical funding level for Selective Service: $22.93 million. This amount matched the previous year's appropriation and was also the amount requested in the President's budget. H.R. 3666 became Public Law 104-204 when it was signed by the President on September 26, 1996. Funding was thus established for FY 1997.

Other Congressional Activity Affects the Agency

In addition to routine consideration during the budget process, in FY 1996 the SSS received Congressional attention in two other instances. At the suggestion of several Members, including Representative Gerald Solomon, preliminary discussions occurred about changing appropriations subcommittee jurisdiction for the Agency from VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies to National Security/Defense. The rationale was that National Security Subcommittee oversight was a "better fit," considering the defense-related mission of the Agency. By February 1996, current Subcommittee Chairman Lewis and "gaining" Subcommittee Chairman Bill Young generally agreed that the switch was feasible and desirable; however, it was decided further consideration of a jurisdictional change would be deferred until the FY 1998 budget process.

In the other instance, legislation affecting the Selective Service System was introduced during consideration of the Defense Authorization Bill for FY 1997. As a part of Congressionally-directed reductions in the end strength of the Army Reserve, Pentagon planning called for trimming the number of Army Reservists assigned to perform paid-drills with SSS. Of the 745 National Guard and Reserve members from all services authorized for the SSS, the Army Reserve had been providing 258 and, according to the plans, they would be reduced to 50 within two years. After this bill passed in the House on May 15, 1996, Senator Strom Thurmond learned that SSS would be severely impacted by planned Army Reserve downsizing. Senator Thurmond introduced Amendment 4312 during the Senate's consideration of the bill on June 26, 1996. The Thurmond Amendment called for exempting Guard members and Reservists assigned to the SSS from mandated service end strengths. It passed in the Senate, but was challenged and reworded when the bill went to conference. The resulting final bill, which was signed into law, included language in Section 414 that amended Section 10 of the Military Selective Service Act (50 U.S.C. App. 460). While it did not exempt Reservists and Guard members assigned to SSS from service end strengths, it stipulated that:

The total number of armed forces personnel assigned to the Selective Service System...may not be less than the number of such personnel determined by the Director of Selective Service to be necessary, but not to exceed 745 persons, except that the President may assign additional armed forces personnel to the Selective Service System during a time of war or a national emergency.

Essentially, this language directed military services to preserve their current levels of Guard and Reserve personnel support to the Selective Service System.

"Service to America" Initiative

In 1993, at the suggestion of then VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies Subcommittee Chair, Senator Barbara Mikulski, SSS explored avenues of interagency cooperation with the Corporation for National Service. The resulting project, which continues to this day, makes use of SSS infrastructure to accomplish promotional mailings for the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). On a reimbursable basis, the SSS mails NCCC recruiting materials to prospective program participants.

A more elaborate "Service to America" initiative took shape within the SSS in FY 1996. In the summer of 1996, SSS increased its emphasis on intergovernmental projects in the spirit of the National Performance Review. For several months, Director Coronado had actively pursued opportunities to engage in cooperative efforts that would benefit SSS "customers," namely, the Department of Defense (DoD) and the American public. After the Director met separately with Defense officials and former Senator Harris Wofford, the Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National Service, SSS staff conferred with counterparts in these agencies in July and August 1996. The "Service to America" initiative grew out of these meetings.

The SSS has always been in a unique position to communicate effectively with virtually all men in America, 18 to 26 years old. Important messages about service to country could easily be incorporated into the Agency's ongoing communications at virtually no additional cost as a part of the registration acknowledgment process. The simple idea was to modify the acknowledgment card SSS sends to more than 1.9 million new registrants each year. In addition to providing them with their Selective Service numbers, the modified cards could be used to inform them about opportunities to "serve America today" in the U.S. Armed Forces and AmeriCorps. Before the close of the fiscal year, the SSS, DoD, and the Corporation for National Service, had agreed on a direction for this new program. Modification of the existing SSS registration acknowledgment card followed. Colorful graphics and wording on the redesigned card encourages all new registrants to consider serving America today in the U.S. Armed Forces or AmeriCorps. Conversion to the new card was scheduled for early 1997, allowing time for clearance by the Office of Management and Budget, reprogramming of SSS computers, and printing through the Government Printing Office.

 

Last Updated April 30, 2002
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