By: Matthew R. Crouch and Christopher P. Mulder
What is the kernel of the issue?
The United States lacks broad opportunities that build Americans’ commitment to our national interests and values. Current programs for young people to serve at the national level are narrow and limited; that should change.
Why is the issue important?
Less than 1% of Americans serve or have served in the military. The lack of service creates a gap in appreciation, affinity, and understanding of how service creates an environment where every American has the potential to succeed. Closing that gap is a vital step in dealing with long term great power competition. National service need not be military related; it could be in domains administered by USAID, FEMA, non-federal organizations, or the State Department that can have a significant impact in the domestic or foreign policy realms.
What is the recommendation?
The Biden administration should stand up a commission to develop a National Service Program that allows the next generation of Americans to contribute to the nation’s safety, security, and resilience in an era of great power competition through a one- to two-year commitment to national service. This not only would expose young people to new opportunities, create goodwill across the nation, and present a defining, unifying experience in which Americans collectively contribute to solving the nation’s challenges, but also would tap into America’s greatest resource, its citizenry.