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Peace Corps a Valuable Asset

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Peace Corps a Valuable Asset

Clear line established to separate military and Peace Corps service (Northfield News) By John Kline

Last year it was brought to my attention, by Peace Corps alumni and others, of a well-intentioned law that - in an effort to expand public service and the concept of national service - allowed military recruits to meet part of their service obligations by serving in the Peace Corps. To encourage military recruiting, military volunteers were being given the option of completing their military service in the Peace Corps.

Peace Corps alumni were alarmed at this law because they believed it would jeopardize the safety of current Peace Corps volunteers. They were worried the perceived links between military service and the Peace Corps might undermine Peace Corps volunteers, who provide essential humanitarian service in remote locations. If Peace Corps volunteers were seen as an arm of the U.S. military - as soldiers in disguise - their safety could be at risk overseas.

Peace Corps alumni and I agreed: both military and Peace Corps service are important to the country, but a clear line needs to be made keeping them separate and distinct.

After careful study of this issue, I introduced legislation to end this practice. My bipartisan legislation, which was co-sponsored by 38 members of Congress including Rep. Betty McCollum, removes the Peace Corps as a military recruitment option and
re-establishes the distinction between Peace Corps volunteers and our military service members.

I am pleased to say this legislation became law as part of the Defense Authorization Act that President Bush signed earlier this year. This is a good example of bipartisan legislation that results when we in Congress listen to our constituents and learn about the issues important to them.

In addition, I recently signed a letter to the House Appropriations Foreign Operations Subcommittee urging them to fund the increase in the Peace Corps budget called for by the President. The increased funding will allow the Peace Corps to optimize the number of volunteers and staff in existing countries, strengthen and expand recruiting efforts, and maximize the safety and security training and compliance efforts.

The Peace Corps does valuable work, is cost effective and it brings out the best of what America has to offer to the world. I am especially proud to represent St. Olaf College and Carleton College, which both rank among the top schools in the nation with alumni volunteering for Peace Corps duty.

In his second inaugural address the President called on Americans to make the choice to "serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself - and in your days you will add not just to the wealth of our country, but to its character." At 7,800 volunteers strong serving in 70 countries from Armenia to Zambia, the Peace Corps is creating goodwill and helping to build bridges between American and the world.

I will continue to work on behalf of the interests of the Peace Corps and proudly support the important work they do.

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