Buttigieg to unveil plan aimed at boosting and incentivizing national service

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Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg addresses the crowd at the 2019 South Carolina Democratic Party State Convention on June 22, 2019 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

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Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg will unveil his campaign’s plan to boost national service on Wednesday in Iowa, rolling out a proposal that aims to increase service opportunities and tie that service to incentives.

The plan, which intends to increase service opportunities to 250,000 a year and to “quadruple the number of service opportunities to 1 million high school graduates” by 2026, is rooted in the South Bend, Indiana, mayor’s own service in the US Naval Reserve.

“National service can help us to form connections between very different kinds of Americans, as was my experience in the military,” Buttigieg said in a statement. “I served alongside and trusted my life to people who held totally different political views. You shouldn’t have to go to war in order to have that kind of experience, which is why I am proposing a plan to create more opportunities for national service.”

The mayor will officially roll out his proposal at an event in Sioux City.

The plan is broken up into three policy pillars: expanding service opportunities, building networks around service and increasing the scale of service opportunities by 2026.

To achieve those goals, Buttigieg says, if elected president he will “immediately increase national service opportunities to 250,000 positions​ through the existing federal and AmeriCorps grantee organizations” and “create competitive grant funding for communities, cities, and regions​ to create service ecosystems tailored to regional and local issues.”

These programs will particularly target students in high school or at community colleges, vocational schools or historically black college and universities.

Buttigieg also would create new “corps” for service, including a Climate Corps, Community Health Corps and Intergenerational Service Corps, all of which would be overseen by a new chief service officer within the White House.

All of this aims to “quadruple the number of service opportunities to 1 million high school graduates” by 2026, according to the plan.

Buttigieg is not the first Democratic candidate to roll out a national service plan. Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, who served as a captain in the US Marine Corps in Iraq, unveiled a proposal earlier this year that would pay 100% of in-state college tuition or $24,000 in job training for three years of commitment to a service organization.

“If you invest in America, then America will invest in you,” Moulton said to ABC in May.

Buttigieg has long said he believes the country would be in a better place — socially and politically — if more people spent time working on national service projects.

“I believe that national service is something we need to create more opportunities for here at home and we need to learn from all of the ways for prior generations military service was a leveler and equalizer, something that made it possible for people like a young John F. Kennedy or George H.W. Bush to learn how to relate on more or less equal terms of factory workers in places like Indiana,” Buttigieg told CNN in March. “It’s unfortunate we lost that.”

Buttigieg later told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that he would like to create a county where the social norm was that everybody “spends a year in national service” after they turn 18.

“Whether it’s civilian or military, it’s the first question on your college application if you’re applying for college or it’s the first question when you are being interviewed for a job if you go right into the work force,” he said. “Now, to do that, we’re going to have to create more service opportunities and we’re going to find a way to fund it. But I think it’s worth approaching.”

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