Military recruitment of minors

One of the quirks of US law is that qualified applicants can enlist at the age of 17 provided they have the signed consent of their parents or legal guardians.

A couple of towns in California, apparently having never read the Constitution, passed local ordinances prohibiting any recruitment effort around minors.

A panel of the 9th Circuit Court upheld an lower court’s ruling that the laws were unconstitutional.

Politically, I’m conservative and federalist. The federal government has assumed far too much power to itself, at the expense of state and local governments. As a rule of thumb, anything that limits the power of the federal government is worthy of review. But like every rule of thumb, there are exceptions. In this case, Congress has clearly been given the power to recruit soldiers, and to provide for the laws and regulations that specify who may be recruited:

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;


To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

Quite clearly, Congress has the power to raise armies, and to regulate them. And the panel of the 9th Circuit recognized this:

The decision by a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said ordinances adopted by the Northern California cities of Eureka and Arcata were unconstitutional because they sought to control federal government activities.
“The states have no power to retard, impede, burden, or in any manner control, the operations of the constitutional laws enacted by Congress to carry into execution the powers vested in the general government,” the judges said.

I find myself most annoyed with the local governments that passed these laws in the first place. Either they are composed of stunningly stupid people (always a real possibility), or they knew all along that what they were proposing was unconstitutional. I’m sure they cloaked themselves in the mantle of righteousness when enacting these laws, and said it was “for the children.” But how can you claim righteousness when you are knowingly abusing the supreme law of the land? It is no better for the local government to assume the role of nanny than the federal government. Minors cannot enlist in any service without the written, informed consent of the parents. What if there are residents of these towns with a strong family history of military service? Does the local government have the power, the right, to deny those families access to information and assistance in the recruiting process?

As a practical matter, it’s a relatively minor thing. I think I only enlisted one minor in my years as a recruiter, and by the time they entered active duty after graduation, he had reached his majority. High school seniors aren’t the target market for recruiters, recent graduates are.

But I’m glad the federal government didn’t let this small case slide. We currently have an all volunteer army. More accurately, it’s an all recruited army. And it has consistently enlisted very high quality recruits. The very people the Army wants to recruit are also very attractive to colleges and other employers. Recruiting is a difficult enough mission as it is. There’s no reason to add to the recruiter’s burden.

10 thoughts on “Military recruitment of minors”

  1. I would be more impressed if it not for the fact that this same court would most assuredly strike down DADT, if they were given a chance, using the exact opposite argument and would not blinked an eye.

  2. “Either they are composed of stunningly stupid people (always a real possibility), or they knew all along that what they were proposing was unconstitutional”

    Also I find that statement a little silly. I don’t know how anyone living in the 9th could possibly know what is unconstitutional giving the fact that the 9th changes the definition of what is constitutional yearly.

  3. Aracta is a VERY liberal town, well known for this. That they passed this ‘law’ doesn’t surprise me in the least, and I’m fairly certain they knew exactly what they were doing.

  4. I don’t believe for one moment that these communities are doing this “for the children,” given that parents must still be involved in recruitment of their minor children. This is about taking away the judgment and power of parents who have their God ordained rights and responsibilities as parents being upheld by the federal government.

    When we relocated to liberal Maryland just north of DC and acquired library cards for our elementary age children, the librarian (probably a conservative) warned me that I would not be permitted to find out what books my children checked out . This was considered a violation of my children’s privacy. When I looked shocked, she quickly responded with a wry smile and wink saying they could check out books on my card and I would always be able to know what got checked out on my card.

    These liberal communities are simply interfering in issues that are none of their concern. Not much different than telling folks what kind of light bulb, toilet, or foods they can/can not purchase, or that their children no longer get toys in the Happy Meals. No one would do that, would they? Oops! They already do.

  5. “I think I only enlisted one minor in my years as a recruiter, and by the time they entered active duty after graduation, he had reached his majority. ”

    They? Great post, but ruined by this pronoun antecedent disagreement, especially since his gender is stated later in the sentence. 😉


    1. It’s a valid complaint. And actually, I rewrote the sentence to correct that, but somewhere between draft and publication, it got screwed up again. Either windows livewriter or wordpress hates me.

  6. Just another example of liberalism run amok. I enlisted four days after my seventeenth birthday, went off to Basic Training (OSUT actually as a 19K) on the delayed entry program, completed OSUT and reported to my duty company the week before my eighteenth birthday. All with my mother’s consent. It was the smartest choice my mother and especially I, ever made.

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