I personally consider this proposal by General Covault of such importance, I urge you to read it carefully and do everything in your power to give it as broad exposure as possible. Short of a Divine Intervention, I can think of nothing that would more substantially improve life in our United States of America than implementation of Universal Service for America at the earliest possible moment. - MLC
A CONCEPT OF OPERATIONS:
UNIVERSAL SERVICE FOR AMERICA
By: Marvin L. Covault, Lt Gen U.S. Army, retired,
September 4, 2021
1. AUTHOR’S COMMENT: This is not an article; it is a proposal that has the potential to transform America in a very positive way. It is long and I appreciate that your time is valuable, but ask that you read it in its entirety. The subject is compulsory national service for all 18-year-old Americans. This proposal will go absolutely nowhere unless We the People create a movement and force the issue to be debated and decided upon in the Executive Branch and Congress.
2. BACKGROUND: Here are some thoughts on what we need to consider before launching into a discussion of compulsory national service, a program that has never existed in our nation.
a. THE DRAFT: Drafting U.S. men in times of national emergencies has been a tool since the colonies drafted them to fill the ranks of their militias to fight in the Revolutionary War. The latest draft was in effect from pre-World War II until discontinued in 1973.
b. SELECTIVE SERVICE SYSTEM: The Selective Service System is run by an agency in the Executive Branch of the federal government. Selective Service is responsible for registration and running a draft in times of national emergency. Currently, men aged 18-25 who are U.S. citizens or are immigrants living in the U.S. are required to register with the Selective Service System within 30 days of turning 18. Immigrants must register within 30 days of arriving in the U.S. Those who fail to register will not be eligible for federal student aid, federal job training, or a federal job and may be prosecuted and face a fine of up to $250,000 and/or jail time of up to five years. A Senate panel’s newly approved defense budget from July 2021 includes a provision that will require women to register with the Selective Service System at age 18.
c. NATIONAL COMMISSION ON SERVICE. Since the dissolution of the draft in 1973 there have been sporadic conversations about a compulsory national service program for all young adults. As part of the FY 2017 Defense Authorization Act, President Trump and the Congress established a National Commission on Military, National and Public Service. Their specific mission was to accomplish two things: Conduct a review of the military selective service process and consider methods to increase participation in military, national and public service to address national security and other public service needs of the nation.
After two and a half years of extensive public engagement, the Commission issued its final report in March 2020, containing its findings and recommendations which include:
• Requiring women to register with the Selective Service System at age 18.
• Increasing military outreach, particularly to those areas with a low propensity to join the armed forces.
• Expanding educational opportunities during military service and developing strategies to recruit and retain in high-demand occupations.
• Expanding civic educational programs in schools.
• Significantly increasing non-military service opportunities to create “an expectation of service” by 2031.
The Commission’s report, entitled Inspire to Serve, explains a vision that, “…. every individual will be exposed to voluntary service opportunities throughout their lifetime, beginning with young people….”. They also repeatedly commented on the need to create an American “culture of service” by 2031. What was most important about the report was what they did not say. Two things:
1) They completely failed to recognize the elephant in the room, that is, do we need compulsory national service for everyone 18-year-old?
2) While they frequently emphasized the importance of creating a national culture of service, they provided zero insights into how that was going to be possible.
d. CULTURE OF SERVICE: Over the years I have given culture considerable thought, written about it, lectured on it and guided large organizations through the process. Here are some of my conclusions:
• There is a culture, positive or negative, embedded in every organization, large and small, and it is a powerful and pervasive force in every one of them.
• You cannot imprint a new culture on an organization with a speech, memo, email, or the words in a Commission report. It is, in and of itself, a huge undertaking and it may take years or a couple of generations to happen.
• The absolute best way to create the Commission’s “culture of service” is to make it a centerpiece of a compulsory service program wherein 99+% of all young adults can be brought into it through daily discussions and actions over a protracted period. In due course, 99+% of the U.S. population will have been subjected to an identical process. “Indoctrination” is not a bad word when used in a positive way. Indoctrination during compulsory service is how a “culture of service” can become part of America’s fabric.
e. HEARINGS: The final Commission’s hearings were held by the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 11, 2021, where their recommendations appeared to be well received by Senators of both parties.
3. ABOUT THIS DOCUMENT:
A concept of operations is a good place to begin the long-range strategic planning process. Its purpose is to tell the story by first defining the problem to be solved, providing a vision of the end-state, (i.e., what we believe can be accomplish), and finally, filling in some of the blanks by describing how the whole thing is going to work. When completed the concept of operations can become a public affairs tool or a sales pitch, if you will.
This document is not the long-range strategic plan. If the concept is accepted by, We the People, Congress and the Executive Branch, a strategic planning team will begin to work the hundreds of details into a phased strategic plan.
4. BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING with these two questions:
Are there any identifiable problems that need to be solved? Yes.
Is there an existing program that addresses these problems? No.
Some wise person once said, “If you cannot define the problem, there is no solution.”
Here is a short list of youth-related issues that will continue to plague this nation far into the future unless bold steps are taken now.
a. GANGS: The FBI reports, “Some 33,000 violent street gangs, motorcycle gangs, and prison gangs with about 1.4 million members are criminally active in the U.S. today. Many are sophisticated and well organized; all use violence to control neighborhoods and boost their illegal money-making activities, which include robbery, drug and gun trafficking, prostitution, human trafficking, and fraud.” Youth gangs are the training ground for a life of crime.
The average number of members per gang is reportedly 42. About half of all homicides in the U.S. are gang related. The Justice Department reports that, “The average age of gang members arrested in the U.S. is 17 or 18.” This information, in and of itself, is sufficient justification for a mandatory youth program in America. We need to take these young adults off the streets and introduce them to a different way of life.
b. DROP-OUTS AND ILLITERACY: On average 7,000 students drop out of school every day; 90% of them end up on welfare. Nationally, 68% of all males in prison do not have a high school diploma. The National Assessment of Education Program, NAEP (aka “America’s Report Card”), reports that 64% of high school graduates are below proficiency in reading and 76% below proficiency in math.
Another example: There are 190 Military Occupational Specialties in the U.S. Army. In North Carolina, 23% of the high school graduates who want to enlist in the Army lack the cognitive skills to perform the most basic tasks and are therefore categorized as functionally illiterate.
An education system in which more than half of students entering 9th grade either drop out or graduate incapable of further education or satisfactorily performing in the private sector or the military is unsatisfactory. Increasing proficiency and thereby providing a greater chance for a successful future can be a part of a universal service program.
c. YOUTH OBESITY: It’s a common, serious, and costly disease. From 2000 to 2020 obesity in the U.S. population increased from about 30% to 45% while severe obesity doubled. Half of the obesity problem is with adolescents aged 12-19 years. Mandatory participation in daily exercise and counseling on healthy habits will help to establish a healthier future America.
d. CULTURE: It’s a powerful and pervasive force in every organization; it is an organization’s personality. Is it caring, hateful, fast, energetic, visionary, risk-taking, vengeful? America is drowning in a culture of hate and blame. A year of character development can change young adults and henceforth, transform America.
e. RACE: There is no way to explicitly measure the state of race relations in the United States, but they are at least not what they should be. Babies are not born bigoted, disrespecting, or hateful. While growing up they learn it at home, in school, on the playground and in the street. A universal service program’s character development along with integrated teamwork every day will enhance the understanding and cooperation among all races represented. The U.S. military has successfully practiced this solution for decades.
f. WELFARE: It is a fact that the more education one completes, the less likely they are to be on welfare. About 32 million households, or 27.1%, benefit from one or more of the following: Medicaid, food stamps, subsidized lunches, public housing, unemployment, and some sort of direct cash assistance. Universal Service for America will provide young men and women the opportunity to be better prepared to hold good jobs and stay off welfare.
Before you read on, let’s deal with the overarching question,
WHY HAVE UNIVERSAL SERVICE FOR AMERICA?
Given these five problem areas (Gangs, Drop-outs, Obesity, Culture, Race and Welfare), the better question is, are these problems in the process of being solved with/by other national programs? I believe the answer is an unequivocable NO. Universal Service for America, or as it may become known as, the U.S.A. Program, can be a transformational undertaking and is therefore worth the effort to make it happen. It can become a rite of passage for all Americans. Please read on.
5. EXISTING NATIONAL SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS: There are national service organizations in existence, such as AmeriCorps, YouthBuild, Senior Corps and the Peace Corps. What they have in common is that they are relatively small, and they are 100% voluntary. One of the most enduring government youth programs has been Job Corps, a free residential education and job training program for young adults, aged 16-24, run by the Department of Labor. Let me provide some revelations about Job Corps to make a couple important points.
From July 2016 to June 2017, Job Corps reported 3,673 safety and security incidents among the 79,000 enrollees (drugs, assault, alcohol, security breach, serious injury) according to the General Accounting Office analysis. Other headlines over the years include, “Job Corps is one of the most wasteful, least effective programs in the federal government.” “Congress spends billions on ineffective job-training programs.” “Job Corps, a recipe for waste, fraud and failure.” “The Federal Job Corps training program is a flop.” “The government has taken on a role for which it was never intended, pouring billions of taxpayer dollars into a broken web of job training.”
The point to be made here is that the federal government has a very long history of attempting to build organizations and run them effectively and efficiently. Their success rate is about zero. If we are to move forward with Universal Service for America, it must NOT be organized, over-regulated and operated by government officials and bureaucrats.
6. ORGANIZATION AND FUNDING: To avoid the pitfalls of the decades-old Job Corps program, Universal Service for America should be organized as a national non-governmental organization (NGO). An NGO is a non-profit, citizen-based undertaking that functions independently of the government. NGOs are organized on local, national, and international levels to serve specific social or political purposes. Despite their independence from the government, many NGOs receive funding from local, state, and federal governments.
There are about 1.5 million NGOs operating in the U.S. Widely known examples are Doctors Without Borders and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). The federal government should fund salaries, housing, meals, transportation, and medical services for Universal Service for America.
7. OPERATIONAL UNDERPINNINGS: For Universal Service for America to be successful it must encompass, as a minimum, the following:
a. At age 17 all U.S. citizens and non-naturalized immigrants must register for Universal Service for America with the existing Selective Service System. Congress should amend the Selective Service System Act with two changes:
• Amend the enrollment age from 18 to 17. This will provide Universal Service for America staff with a valid database of potential participants a year in advance of their reporting for duty at age 18.
• Currently the law says that “Failure to register with the Selective Service is a felony punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and/or 5 years imprisonment.”
• The law should be amended to read: An American citizen must register with the Selective Service within 30 days after their 17th birthday. Male immigrants residing in the United States who are 17 through 25 years of age must register within 30 days of arrival in the U.S. Those who have not done so by their 18th birthday are subject to imprisonment for five years. If, after one year in prison, they register with the Selective Service and report to the next available Universal Service for America program, the remainder of the 5-year sentence will be forgiven.
b. Attendance is mandatory for all high school graduates who are 18 years old plus all 18-year-old non-graduates. Exceptions include women who are pregnant or have a child; individuals who are physically or mentally impaired; and those who join the military immediately after high school graduation. Individuals who are head-of-households may apply for an exemption
c. Universal Service for America will be 12-months in duration beginning June of each year. This needs some discussion:
Unlike AmeriCorps, YouthBuild and Job Corps that may have just a few thousand up to 75,000 enrollees, Universal Service for America will have about four million enrollees on a continuous basis. That is almost twice the size of the entire U.S. military, active duty, Guard and Reserve combined.
Compulsory service for all 18-year-old Americans and immigrants will be an enormous undertaking. For a 2-year program, following the first-year enrollment of 4 million people, all succeeding years would have about 8 million continuously in residence. For example, a small city, population 50,000, would have always about 1,600 participants in residence. A 2-year program may be too large to run efficiently and effectively.
If it is a 12-month program, that begs the question: What impact will it have on all our colleges and universities which will, the first year of the program, be without an entire incoming freshman class? There are three possible solutions to this problem:
• The first is exempt compulsory service for all high school graduates who will be enrolled as full-time college students by the fall semester after high school graduation. There are enormous downsides to this alternative: It defeats the overall intent and purpose of the program, which is to create a culture of service for all Americans; many students have no business going to college, but may use college enrollment simply as a way to dodge the compulsory service; and it would create an unhealthy division in America for all times, meaning those who did and those who didn’t “serve”. It will defeat the advantages resulting from “rite of passage”
• A second alternative is to require all college students to attend at least two, and perhaps three or four summer sessions of Universal Service for America; the first immediately following high school graduation. There are potential downsides for this alternative: Every June there will be (in round numbers) about 4 million new candidates for Universal Service for America; about 2.5 million will be college bound in September and 1.5 million will begin their full year of service.
If the college students are to complete their service commitment by attending only summer sessions, after the first year of the service program there will be an additional surge of 2.5 million (those having just finished one year of collage), 6.5 million total for the second summer, then a summer surge to 8 million the 3rd June and to 10.5 million for the 4th June and 10.5 million every summer thereafter. The logistics associated with those summer surge numbers would be staggering to begin with and creating these summer surges will likely negatively impact the overall quality of the program.
• The third alternative is for the federal government to create a one-time bailout fund for colleges and universities to offset the no-freshman-class situation that will occur the first, and only, year of Universal Service for America.
Continuing with the program’s OPERATIONAL UNDERPINNINGS:
d. After 6 months in the program, anyone who is qualified to do so may enlist in the U.S. military.
e. All attendees will be provided with a photo identification card with personal description information, a Universal Service for America ID number and expiration date. The ID will enable free local public transportation while in the program. In conjunction with the Selective Service, each states’ DMV facilities will produce and issue the ID cards.
f. Everyone will be stationed at a location removed from their home of record and will not be stationed with others from their home community.
g. Men and women participants will not cohabitate.
h. The majority will be stationed in urban areas.
i. Every full-time attendee will be authorized vacation days over religious holidays and during July or August.
j. Lodging, meals, uniforms, transportation, and medical care will be provided. Each attendee will receive a stipend of $500 per month.
k. Uniforms will consist of dark blue pants/shorts, white shirts, and a hat. Uniforms will include a name tag, a Universal Service for America logo, which will include the American flag.
l. Everyone will participate in physical training five days per week.
m. Everyone will abide by the Universal Service for America Code of Conduct.
n. No one in the program is exempt from any local, state, or federal laws. Universal Service for America will not provide legal counsel to attendees when apprehended for violations of the law.
o. Transgender individuals will abide by local, state, and federal rules in force for where they reside during their term of service.
p. Mandatory unannounced drug testing will be the norm.
q. All will participate in leader training by being team leaders or higher as they move through the program.
r. This should be a no-frills experience for each participant consisting of long workdays, community service on the weekends, and basic accommodations.
s. There will be two Universal Service for America websites: One to keep the public apprised of every aspect of the program; and the second will be an internal site available to leaders and staff. Innovation has been the lifeblood of this nation since its inception; best-practices will be templated and shared. Additionally, the internal site can be used to clarify program policies and procedures.
8. PARTICIPATION NUMBERS for a 12-month, all-18-year-old program: Using 2020 data, it is possible to forecast the approximate number of participants if Universal Service for America could begin operations June 2023; 3.7 million 18-year-old high school graduates, plus 300,000 18-year-old non-graduates and some, yet to be determined, number of 18-year-old non-citizens living in the U.S.
9. A TYPICAL DAY IN UNIVERSAL SERVICE FOR AMERICA: The intent of the schedule is to address the problems articulated in paragraph 4, gangs, dropouts, illiteracy, obesity, culture, race relations and welfare. And most importantly, to build a culture of service to society. The days will be tailored to individual needs with the objective of transforming lives and thereby giving them a greater chance at a successful life.
a. Morning Schedule:
• Physical training.
• Gather in a classroom setting, in groups of about 25, with a volunteer instructor, and discuss elements of the Character Development curriculum; see paragraph 10.
• For the remainder of the morning, based on arrangements with local schools, those who have not graduated from high school, could, attend virtual classes and gain credits towards receiving a high school diploma.
• Through arrangements with local Community Colleges, those participants interested in some type of technical training could take morning classes.
• Those seriously deficient in reading, writing and math skills could attend remedial morning classes.
• Have an “open” period each morning for guest speakers, leadership training, lessons on U.S. history and civics; whatever subjects enhance the overall program.
b. Afternoon schedule: Generally, this will be the time for community service. There are so many ways to help and become visible to the public in positive ways, for example:
Clean parks and playgrounds, volunteer at a museum, assist at a walk-a-thon or community run, deliver food to the homebound, work at a food bank, take care of animals at a shelter, tutor students who have fallen behind in their studies, walk kids home from school, donate blood, help kids with their homework, offer free music lessons, coach a youth sports team, teach adults internet skills, teach CPR, assist immigrants with conversational English, chaperone a field trip, help out at a community center, volunteer as a lifeguard, be a crossing guard, do social media for a local nonprofit, help set up a community event, organize a clothing drive, adopt a highway and clean it, participate in musical performances at nursing homes, deliver groceries to the elderly, write letters for a senior citizen, lead an exercise program, sponsor an animal at the zoo, work for a charity like Habitat for Humanity, volunteer at a fire station, teach self-defense, paint over graffiti, work with special-needs kids; there is no end to this list.
10. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: Five days per week, following breakfast, participants will assemble, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and then participate in a character development class. The Character Curriculum will be, ACCOUNTABILITY, CITIZENSHIP, COMMITMENT, COMPASSION, COURAGE OF CONVICTIONS, COURTESY, CONFIDENCE, HEALTHY HABITS, HONESTY, HONOR, HUMILITY, INTEGRITY, JUDGMENT, LEADERSHIP, MORALITY, PERSEVERANCE, PUNCTUALITY, RESPECT, RESPONSIBILITY, SELF-RESPECT, SELFLESS SERVICE, SPORTSMANSHIP AND TRUST.
Just imagine the impact this can have with four million young adults having a substantive discussion about one of the subjects in the Character Curriculum five days a week and then adjourning to live/be/do/demonstrate those values daily. It is a powerful initiative and will displace our current culture of hate and blame.
11. GOVERNMENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES: For this Non-Governmental Organization, the federal government will be responsible for financing the bulk of operational costs, including salaries, housing, food, transportation, and medical services.
The states will use their Division of Motor Vehicles facilities to produce and issue Universal Service for America ID cards for each 17-year-old as they register with the Selective Service.
Local officials will provide free-of-charge public transportation. They will also become points of contact for program officials to coordinate the use of participants to fulfill community service tasks.
12. UNIVERSAL SERVICE FOR AMERICA LEADERS IN THE FIELD: There is and always will be a perfect source of men and women to become qualified leaders and staff for the program. Annually the Defense Department retires thousands of men and women who have just finished 20-25 years of service, are looking for a second career and all have four things in common: 1) They are proven leaders. 2) They have years of experience teaching and training. 3) They understand standards and have spent two decades living up to them. 4) And perhaps most importantly, they have served in a totally integrated inter-racial environment with an overarching value base of accountability, respect, and trust. What more could one ask for in a person to lead and mentor the young adults?
13. OPERATIONAL LOCATIONS: It will not be practical to run the program with individual participants scattered across sparsely populated rural areas. This will, by necessity, be a program where they are housed and operate in urban areas with population densities of at least 50,000. The total U.S. population living in areas with at least 50,000 density is about 250 million. Doing the math, there are about 5,000 urban segments, each with a population of about 50,000. To accommodate all 4 million participants June through the following May would require housing nearly 800 participants per 50,000 population segment. A city of 200,000 would need to house 3,200 (800 x 4) etc. across the U.S. urban landscape.
14. UNIVERSAL SERVICE FOR AMERICA HEADQUARTER’S OPERATIONAL CONCEPT: Centralized planning with emphasis on maximum decentralized execution is a must. The federal government is infamous for getting it backwards. When they attempt to run an operation, invariably they will, through thousands of pages of regulations, create a top-heavy bureaucratic mass attempting to micromanage all aspects of an operation. And, in most cases they fail. Without decentralized decision making and execution, innovation and operational flexibility will be unachievable.
Centralized planning by the CEO, the planning staff and Board of Directors will prescribe policy and articulate achievable standards
15. LAUNCH THIS OPERATION WITH A PHASED PLAN: In long-range strategic planning, phasing the operation is an imperative. Simply put, at the front end you don’t know what you don’t know. As you move forward in time, key data will come to light and can then be properly assimilated into the total equation.
a. Phase 1, the fall of 2021: If this was a military operation this step would be called “Shaping the Battlespace.” For this program to succeed we need a strong, robust, multi-faceted Public Relations Campaign to generally enlighten everyone and to convince the general population that this is worth the effort, worth the expense and will make our nation better and stronger than it can otherwise become. “Mandatory participation” is potentially a tough sell.
The intent is to get some traction with the White House, Congress, Governors, local officials, the public and media. A good start would be if enough people who agree with this Concept of Operations would send it on to every state and federal politician in the country. Additionally, seek to make compulsory service a frequently debated issue on the opinion pages in newspapers across the country.
Also in phase 1, find a pro bono CEO for this program. The first order of business will be to pull together a pro bono Board of Directors, composed of movers-and-shakers to find financing for a national Public Relations Campaign.
b. Phase 2, early 2022: The CEO and his/her Board of Directors should draft the proposed legislation and push for Universal Service for America Non-Governmental Organization, NGO, funding to be included in the President’s budget when it is sent to Congress, Phase 3, by the first Monday in February 2022. The first-year funding will be modest in that it may be prudent to begin the programs with a pilot program.
It would be very difficult to begin this operation with a full complement of young adult participants (about 4 million) on day one and a fully staffed and trained national organization to run it. Therefore, the first-year funding should accommodate a pilot program with about 1,000 volunteer participants in each state.
c. Phase 3 also in the spring of 2022: The CEO will give the states a heads-up that, if passed by Congress, the law will require the states’ DMV facilities to be prepared to coordinate with the Selective Services System and register prospective attendees. All Americans who will reach their 18th birthday on or before 1 June 2023 must register for the initial Universal Service for America and may volunteer to attend the pilot program beginning in the summer of 2023.
d. Phase 4 will begin in 2022: The President signs the bill which will provide pilot-program funding for Universal Service for America as a Non-Governmental Organization. Hopefully that should happen by 1 October 2022 when the government’s fiscal year begins.
Upon passage of the Universal Service for America Act the CEO will hire a staff to complete the phased plan. There will be hundreds of issues to work on, for example: develop an organization chart; hire and train leaders and staff; logistics for housing and feeding attendees; initial registration to get the program started; develop a national database of those who register as a 17-year-old; develop a recruiting and training program for volunteers; liaise with state and local authorities; construct plans for Character Development; write a Code of Conduct; determine pay scales for permanent and temporary hires, etc.
The planning staff must also deal with the subject of discipline, a very delicate and important issue. Inevitably, established rules and standards will be violated. The planners must define in detail who will have disciplinary authority and what the punishments will be for various categories of infractions. Additionally, the headquarters staff must have a robust Inspector General Directorate to deal with complaints, potentially fraudulent activities, and any other activities that may call into question the integrity of the organization.
e. Phase 5 will begin in June of 2023: Bringing 18-year-old volunteers into the program in each state.
16. VOLUNTEERS: Where do the volunteers come from to teach the Character Development curriculum? There are about 70 million Baby Boomers currently retiring at a rate of about 10,000 per day and many are looking for something interesting, meaningful, and challenging to do in retirement. Additionally, many local organizations, (country clubs, churches, charitable organizations, etc.) will be willing to sign up for several volunteer positions and keep them filled on a permanent basis.
17. COMMUNITY INTERACTION: The nation needs to buy in to the idea of compulsory national service. They need to meet these young people, see them volunteering and working in teams for the betterment of the community. Therefore, a key to success will be the extent to which the participants can be temporarily joined up with businessmen and women, civil servants, first responders, and every part of what is going on in the community every day. Arrange for participants to walk the beat with a law enforcement officer, spend a night in jail, see what goes on in the backroom of a supermarket, ride along when a fire truck is called out, spend some nights in a hospital emergency room and be a part of every community group doing volunteer work. Participants need to be visible, see the good, the bad, and the ugly America and expand their horizons by seeing and doing new and different things every day.
A logical and valuable extension of this interaction is to institute, in every community, a mentoring program wherein leaders in all walks of life can personally, one-on-one interact with one or more of the participants over the year and by extension, into the future. Mentoring can be a life-changing event for both.
18. VISION: All planning should begin and end with a clear vision of the end-state. This first step is a must-do because there is truth in the old saying, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”
The VISION for UNIVERSAL SERVICE FOR AMERICA is to set in motion, through positive training and mentoring of all the nation’s 18-year-old young adults, a process that will mitigate the problems associated with gangs, dropouts, illiteracy, obesity, race, culture, and welfare. Over a period of years Universal Service for America will transform this country into a better, safer, and more prosperous place for everyone.
Vision is WHERE we need to go with this vital and important program.
19. MISSION: Once in place, there needs to be an overarching clear and brief statement defining what it is the organization is to focus. on and accomplish every day. For example, the U.S. Army’s mission is to prepare to fight and win the nation’s wars - clarity and brevity.
The UNIVERSAL SERVICE FOR AMERICA MISSION is to annually engage all 18-year-old Americans in a program that will enhance their education, build character, strengthen their self-determination, and set in motion a lifelong appreciation for community service, all while internalizing and learning to live in a culture of accountability, trust and respect.
The mission is WHAT Universal Service for America needs to engage in each day.
20. THE CEO: I have contacted one of America's most important, influential, and respected voices on cultural, political, and educational issues. He has held numerous positions of great importance to America to include an Executive Branch department head for a previous president. He is a frequent guest on national news programs speaking on current critical issues and is a voice for traditional American values. I am in hopes that he will consider taking on the position of CEO, Universal Service for America.
a. It is within the art of the possible for Universal Service for America to become a valuable national recruiting resource. The military can now be more focused on a single group of 18-year-old Americans. Local businesses may find a beneficial “fit” with some of the participants and offer them positions at the end of their national service obligation. Technical businesses may look at the training the participants are engaged in at the community colleges to find prospective hires. The federal and state civilian work forces are constantly in need of an infusion of young talent, etc.
b. The percentage of the U.S. population which has benefited from compulsory service will grow every year and become transformational and drastically reduce the severity of the problems we are faced with today: gangs, dropouts, illiteracy, obesity, culture of blame and hate, race relations and welfare.
c. This campaign with its character development, daily emphasis on values and teamwork, participants living and working in a culture of accountability, trust and respect can ultimately change how a nation thinks and acts, from the bottom up, for generations to come.
d. The power of the Character Development being discussed with every participant each day will result in the following:
• As participants learn more about a life of accountability, they will be less likely to resort to hatred and blame.
• Participants who are steeped in commitment, confidence, perseverance, punctuality, and responsibility do not skip classes or work schedules, do not fall behind or drop out, and are more likely to pursue additional education, get a job and stay off welfare.
• Participants who are deeply rooted in trust and respect will rally against bullying and are unlikely to become racially bigoted adults. And they will believe, “They will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” MLK
• Participants who accept being compassionate, courteous, honorable, and demonstrate the courage of their convictions, will not return home to their street gangs.
• Participants who accept honesty, morality and integrity as their guiding light are more likely to become life-long upstanding citizens.
• Participants who understand, live, and accept a life of selfless service are unlikely to become self-serving adults.
• Participants who gain an understanding that there is a lot they don’t yet know and even part of what they believe might be incorrect, will have the quality of humility.
• Participants who gain an understanding of self-respect will recognize that they are now better than they used to be and can be counted on in times of temptation because they are morally dependable.
• With this value base, graduates of Universal Service for America are more likely to exercise good judgment and become good-to-great leaders.
e. Universal Service for America will be expensive but there is a huge difference between an expense and an investment.
f. Amtrak is a good example of a taxpayer funded government-run expense. Fifty-one years ago, President Nixon signed the Rail Passenger Service Act creating the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, later known as Amtrak, to take over intercity passenger rail obligations. Amtrak has lost money every year requiring a federal subsidy. In 2019 it was $1.9 billion.
The Northeast corridor is the crown jewel of Amtrak. Interestingly, 92% of its riders have a college degree and an average income of $170,000 a year. Yet, taxpayers subsidize $60 of each Amtrak ticket on that line. As if that is not enough, the government Covid relief packages in 2020 provided $2 billion dollars to Amtrak. Additionally, the infrastructure bill passed by the Senate in August 2021 contains $66 billion for intercity rail. That, Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer, is a government “expense.”
Universal Service for America, on the other hand, should not be categorized as a government expense; it is an investment in the future of our great nation. Yes, it will be expensive, but the pay-back is incalculable. Go back and review the problems articulated in Paragraph 4, associated with young Americans today and then ask yourself if those problems could be even partially eliminated, would it be worth the investment?
Additional take-aways from this subparagraph on expense vs. investment:
1) The government must never take over the program and attempt to run it. If that happens the program will fail from being ineffective, inefficient, and lacking in ingenuity and
2) The Congress must never be allowed to insert its partisan influence into the program’s curriculum via the annual appropriation to the NGO. If they do, the program’s integrity will be lost.
22. A PARTING THOUGHT: While writing this Concept of Operations, some of my mentors and confidants suggested looking at the Israeli program of mandatory military service for all men and women. Four things were brought to my attention:
a. Mandatory military service has become a “rite of passage” for all Israeli citizens. The U.S.A. Program can become that for all Americans.
b. The army serves as Israel’s melting pot. Participants from every background are blended for better understanding, appreciation and tolerance of each other. The U.S.A. Program can do that in the United States.
c. Women have equal status. and equal responsibilities. The U.S.A. Program can promote and advance that in our nation.
d. Service in Israel’s defense force is viewed as a precursor to the nation’s economy which has grown faster than any other developed country in the past 25 years. The parallel is that these young people learn how to solve problems, work with diverse groups of people and build networks. The U.S.A. Program can do that in the United States, and easily offset the program investment dollars.
Israelis consider the result of their mandatory service to be national pride, skill and gender equality. It can do the same in the United States. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; we should not be too proud to copy something that works for others.
23. KEYS TO SUCCESS: A critical step in every long-range strategic planning effort is to STOP, about now, when the overall Concept of Operations has been thought through, and at least has touched on most the necessary questions (who-what-when-where-why-and-how?) and then ask, what are the keys to success? Or stated another way, what can cause this to fail? The keys to success for Universal Service for America are:
a. A Public Relations Campaign that is nation-wide and very robust.
b. Resist becoming fully engaged until we have had the opportunity to learn from a pilot program of at least one year. Learn to walk before we try to run.
c. Character Development is the pillar that will make Universal Service for America last for a lifetime. In the daily routine, the period devoted to Character Development must be priority number one.
d. Everything in the program must contribute to and point toward creating a lasting culture of
ACCOUNTABILITY, RESPECT AND TRUST.
24. BOTTOM LINE:
a. If goodness, and hence greatness, is to be regained for this country, it will be accomplished one person at a time through character development and a culture shift from blame and hate to accountability, trust, and respect.
b. Just for a moment imagine, across this great nation, millions of young adults in classrooms with their hands on their hearts, looking at the American flag, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and then sitting down with a dedicated patriot volunteer to discuss character and values. The result will be transformational for generations to come.
c. Why are we doing this? To paraphrase a French political philosopher, Alexis de Tocqueville, who came to America in the 1820s to study our nation; he concluded in his book, Democracy in America, that America is great because it is good; when it ceases to be good it will cease to be great. There needs to be a time and a place wherein all Americans can contemplate goodness and thereby plan to live a more fulfilling and productive life by being all they can be. That time is now, and that place will be as a participant in Universal Service for America. Goodness doesn’t just happen; it is a work in progress. Our intent must be focused on refreshing and perpetuating America’s goodness.
25. WHAT CAN YOU DO? The short answer is get involved; every one of you. Use this concept of operations as an information source and talk up the subject of compulsory service with friends and neighbors. Summarize this concept and send it to the editorial page of your local newspaper. By whatever means you received this copy, forward it to your email list. Mail a copy to, U.S. Congress, Party leaders, your Governor and State Legislators.
My thanks go out to every one of you for reading this.
Marvin L. Covault, Lt Gen U.S. Army, retired, is the author of VISION TO EXECUTION, a book for leaders, a columnist for THE PILOT, a national award-winning local newspaper in Southern Pines, NC, and the author of a blog, WeThePeopleSpeaking.com.
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Self-righteous progressives believe they put up with and suffer on behalf of us—and thus their irrational fury and hate for the irredeemables and conservative minorities spring from being utterly unappreciated by clueless serfs who should properly worship their betters. - VICTOR DAVIS HANSON