This petition is asking Massachusetts Senators and Representatives to introduce legislation to the US Congress and Massachusetts State Senate that proposes the Peace Corps Military Parity Constitutional Amendment. The amendment greatly expands the role of the United States Peace Corps by increasing its funding, except during time of war, to be equal or greater than that of the combined military forces of the United States. It also grants Peace Corps veterans the same status as military veterans. The amendment stipulates that it shall take effect five years after the date of its ratification.
Peace Corps Military Parity
Section 1: For all periods excepting those expressed in section 2, Congress shall allocate funds to the United States Peace Corps in an amount no less than the sum-total of all United States military spending for the same period.
Section 2: Congress shall be exempt from section 1 during periods in which Congress has declared a war with clearly defined objectives for either victory or timely cessation of hostilities on a foreign sovereign nation-state or its equivalent.
Section 3: Excepting the office of the President of the United States and the Congress of the United States, oversight, direction, and command of the United States Peace Corps shall be independent of the oversight, direction, and command of the United States military.
Section 4: All government agencies, all laws, and all government programs that grant honors, privileges, services, or rights to veterans shall hold service in the United States Peace Corps to be equivalent to service in the United States Military.
Section 5: This amendment shall take effect five years after the date of ratification.
Given that the 2016 annual budget of the United States Peace Corps is $140 Million, and the 2015 fiscal year military spending is projected to total $595.5 Billion, if no other changes were made to the Federal Budget, ceteris parabis, the amendment would require Congress to increase the budget of the Peace Corps by a factor of four thousand. Given that the 2015 military spending accounts for approximately 54% of all federal discretionary spending, it is likely that Congress would face political pressure to significantly draw down peace-time military spending in order to comply with the amendment. Therefore, it is unlikely Peace Corps funding will reach the level of 2015 military spending in inflation adjusted dollars.
The ratification of the amendment would likely lead to significant domestic social and economic changes. It would add an opposing economic and political Check-and-Balance to the Military-Industrial-Complex warned of by President Dwight D Eisenhower. Many technological advancements over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries have had US military origins, notable examples being nuclear power, computers, human interplanetary space travel, and GPS location. With parity of funding, the Peace Corps may be able to catalyze comparable advancements in the fields of medicine, hunger, poverty reduction, and natural disaster response, prevention, and preparedness.
The amendment does not threaten the economic interests of existing military contractors. Even if the amendment leads to a decrease in military contracts, new Peace Corps contracts will become logistical necessities. The same companies that have been competing for military contracts can compete for Peace Corps contracts.
The ratification of the amendment would also likely lead to significant changes abroad. This would be a new and powerful tool for US foreign policy and diplomacy. The non-sequitur orders of the Bush administration to the US military to "win the hearts and minds" of the Iraqi and Afghani people illustrate the application of this tool. Military personnel do not have the training, equipment, or institutional mandate to engage in the on-the-ground diplomacy inherent in these orders, nor is there a plausible historical example of an occupying military force being welcomed by the people it subjugated. An expanded Peace Corps could feasibly fulfill this role.
Exceptions and historical examples:
The amendment allows Congress significant flexibility during times of national crisis, and gives guidelines that Congress can follow in order to be temporarily unrestricted in its military spending. The exemption in section 2 allows Congress to decrease funding to the Peace Corps, or to increase funding to the military without a corresponding increase to the Peace Corps, with a declaration of war that meets two of three conditions.
The first condition is that the conflict has clearly defined objectives for victory. An example of a historical conflict within the last 100 years that would not have met this criteria is the Vietnam conflict, given that Congress never declared war. Even if Congress had declared war, this criterion may not have been met given the July 1, 1965 memo by George Ball to President Lyndon Johnson and other documented correspondences from the era declaring the war to be unwinnable.
The second condition, which can be met in lieu of the first, is that Congress define an objective for timely cessation of hostilities. This criterion could have exempted the Iraqi and Afghani conflicts following the September 11th 2001 terror attacks, but only after President Barack Obama's establishment of a timetable for withdrawal.
The third condition must be met by all declarations of war. The war must be declared against a "a foreign sovereign nation-state or its equivalent." This criterion would exclude the Reagan era "War on Drugs" and Bush era "War on Terror." The criterion is flexible enough, however, that Congress could feasibly apply this exemption if it were to declare war on large and well organized terrorist organizations such as the organization currently known as ISIS/ISIL.