Southwest Washington’s connection to Washington, D.C., saw some change last week as former Washington state Sen. Don Benton was named the director of the Selective Service Systems, an agency responsible with keeping records in the event of a military draft.
The first news of the appointment came from an official release from the White House on April 10 when the administration’s intent on putting Benton in the post was stated. Following that initial release, Benton was formally sworn in April 13 by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito “on his family’s 120-year-old Bible,” as stated in a release from the SSS.
“The Selective Service’s job is primarily one of maintaining an effective database,” Benton said. He mentioned that this differed from what he had heard about his undertaking of the position.
“My job is not to recruit for the armed services,” Benton said. “That’s the job of the different branches of the armed forces.”
Registration to the U.S. Selective Service is mandatory for male U.S. citizens within 30 days of their 18th birthday, as well as for permanent residents and undocumented immigrants between the ages of 18 to 25.
Benton is the first director of the agency to not have any previous military service, which has drawn contention among critics of his appointment. He said that the argument against his appointment was similar to that when he assumed the role of Clark County Director of Environmental Services where his similar lack of environmentally-based experience brought the appointment into question.
“Environmental experience wasn’t critical to the efficient management and success of the office,” Benton said. “What you need is someone that understand people, understands budgets and understands how to maximize those people’s strengths and those budgets.”
Although he himself never served, Benton brought up that he comes from a military family, with his father being a naval officer who helped prepare for the invasion of Normandy in World War II and both of his older brothers being veterans themselves.
“I don’t think you will find anyone who understands the commitment and the sacrifice more than I do,” Benton said.