May 02, 2017

Duckworth to Trump: Selective Service Director Makes Life & Death Decisions for Our Children, Appointment Shouldn’t Be Given to Unqualified Political Patrons


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - Combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) wrote to President Trump today expressing concern that patronage played a role in his recent appointment of Mr. Donald Benton to be the Director of the Selective Service System. Duckworth highlighted Mr. Benton's lack of qualifications for the position and expressed concern that President Trump, who received five draft deferments, appointed the first Director in the history of the agency who has never served in the Armed Forces.

"I am deeply concerned that your recent appointment of Mr. Donald M. Benton to be Selective Service Director jeopardizes [its] critical mission," wrote Senator Duckworth. "In addition to being the first Selective Service Director who never served in the United States Military, Mr. Benton has no experience serving as a civilian with DOD, and appears to possess little or no experience leading an organization with an annual budget of approximately $25 million. Mr. Benton also appears to lack cybersecurity expertise or experience securing sensitive information systems, which is a critical responsibility for an agency ... that maintains a massive database containing personal identifiable information. In reviewing the press release issued by the White House ... it is not clear why you believe Mr. Benton is qualified to be Selective Service Director."

The Director of the Selective Service is charged with registering young Americans who can be drafted into the Armed Forces if there is a national emergency and to be prepared to create an Alternative Service Program for registrants who are conscientious objectors. Duckworth noted that she is a strong supporter of an all-volunteer force who is committed to ensuring the military is never forced to resort to involuntary conscription. Duckworth also emphasized the importance of a well-run Selective Service System to our national security, since it would be responsible for millions of Americans' lives if a draft were ever re-instituted.

Earlier this month, the White House announced President Trump's "intent to nominate" Mr. Benton and that he will serve as the Selective Service's director if he is "confirmed." However, Mr. Benton's appointment did not require Senate confirmation and he was sworn in-without any confirmation-just days later. The White House announcement also did not explain why Benton is qualified to serve in the position and did not mention the military or the agency he now leads. Benton is a former State Senator from Washington who was an early Trump supporter and Chair of Trump's Washington state campaign, raising questions whether his appointment stemmed from his political support of Trump. Benton spent several months this year as a political appointee at the EPA, where he was reportedly barred from attending meetings after repeatedly making rude comments and clashing with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. He has a controversial history, having called a fellow Republican Senator, "a trashy, trampy-mouthed little girl," and been accused of mishandling Washington Republican Party funds when he briefly served as its Chairman.

Full text of the letter is available online here.