Defend the Guard has been a recent focus of Bob Corkins and his lobbying firm Frontier Peace, along with LPKS Political Director Al Terwelp. The partnership between the two organizations has seen recent progress at the state level, with exciting potential for success.

LPKS Communications Director Allison Ross interviewed Bob to find out more about DTG’s history and current involvement. Thanks for sharing, Bob!

AR: Give us the rundown of what Defend the Guard is. 

BC: It’s a one-page-long bill stating that Kansas army and air national guard cannot be deployed to active combat overseas unless Congress has formally declared war. The bill also says that the guardsmen have an absolute guarantee that they need not accept the [covid-19] vaccine, and will not be subject to penalty if they decline the vaccine.

The education that needs to happen is to explain the difference between authorization to use force and a proper declaration of war. These are sometimes called U.S. police actions or military actions. Both have to be passed by Congress as well – both types require a simple majority of House and Senate at federal level and a signature by the president. The difference is the authority that’s conveyed within that resolution. 

With war, there’s some historical key words and key authorizations. There have only been 11 cases in U.S. history that this has happened. The first was the War of 1812, and the most recent was Romania in 1942, one of the Balkan states that was aligned with Germany. Of the eight times the US has declared war in the 20th century, all say the president is “authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war…and to bring the conflict to a successful termination while all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.”

Every other undeclared “war” in US history has been an  AUMF – authorization to use military force – which is less than a declaration of war. 

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Throughout U.S. history there have been 11 different AUMFs. The first was in 1798, but most of them occurred in the 20th century. All of them have used this language: “the president is authorized and directed.” They all have certain commonalities – like they used the phrase “authorization to use force” as opposed to “war.” These are not just semantics, they’re real, tangible differences. 

On the domestic side it’s important because if there’s a formal declaration of war, then there are quite a few special statutory authorities that are conferred on the president. Not just military but also foreign trade, transportation, communications, manufacturing – all of that is automatically on the president. None of that happens under the AUMF [authorization of military force]; that is something less. 

I even spoke with a former U.S. senator who was there in 2001 when they voted on the Iraqi AUMF. I asked him, “Did you know that was an authorization to use force?” And he responded, “As far as I was concerned, it was a declaration of war.” I just had to tell him diplomatically, “I’m sorry Senator, you’re wrong. We haven’t had that since 1942.” That’s the educational challenge in front of us. 

AR: Ok, so there’s a lot of history behind this. 

BC: Absolutely. For a little bit of context, let me explain the formal utilization of the state guard units. It can happen under one of two different ways under federal law. They’re known as either Title 32 deployments, or Title 10 deployments. 

The T32 are the common uses of the guard that we understand – natural disaster relief, riot control, covid-19 relief (this is used to provide mobile hospitals). T10 deployments are triggered by the U.S. President, Commander in Chief. Virtually all of them – 9 out of every 10 – are active combat overseas. 

There was a resolution the Kansas legislature passed last month commending the KS Guard for their service and activities. Within that resolution is a laundry list of foreign operations that the Guard has been deployed for. Starting with the Civil War, including World War I, World War II, and the Korean War, but also into the contemporary era – Operation Desert Fox, the Iraq War. It’s extensive. 

There is increasingly greater involvement of the state guard units in foreign conflicts. Our proposal changes nothing about the Title 32 uses of the guard – only Title 10. 

AR: So, what are the biggest hurdles you faced in presenting this bill? 

BC: The challenge was in trying to bring a new issue to legislators that they hadn’t considered. This whole movement on Defend the Guard is only a couple years old. It was led by Dan McKnight, who was very helpful & very inspirational and coached us along on some things. 

We initially tried to generate some enthusiasm at the Kansas Statehouse. My first charge was to try to get some feedback and take the pulse of leaders in both legislative chambers. I sat down with Senator Masterson – president of the Senate – and a little later I had a talk with Rep. Dan Hawkins, who’s the House majority leader. Both were receptive to the issue, had some good questions, nothing critical at all. But neither of them were ready to stick their necks out. 

We’re trying to overcome inertia. You see this in legislative debates all the time – the first thing they ask is “where has it been tried before?” They want to know there’s a successful track record before they venture out themselves. No one wants to say no, but no one wants to step out and be a leader on the issue. And that’s a problem because in both the House and the Senate, one of the early chores is to find an insider to champion your cause.. 

There are five gatekeepers who decide which bills will get brought up for debate and whether this thing is ever going to see the light of day. You have at least a decent shot of persuading those gatekeepers that this is an issue whose time has come. No matter how many other legislators you win over, you have to get the leadership to at least not fight you before you have any chance at all. 

We have a narrow window of opportunity to get this passed. We want an all-out press. We heard a lot of crickets and didn’t have a lot of optimism until about a month ago, with Rep. John Barker who likes the bill. He happens to be a federal judge, a good man, good attorney, and supporter [of the bill]. Best jumpstart we could hope for. 

AR: Talk a little about Frontier Peace, your lobbying firm. What got you interested in this particular cause?

BC: Frontier Peace specializes in lobbying libertarian issues. It’s a member association, so one of the things people do when they become a member is give us a ranking of their priority of issues. We use that in determining where we put our resources to lobby. 

Defend the Guard just sort of popped up this summer as an idea from a few of our members. I knew nothing about it but as I learned more I realized this is an issue that’s very timely. I felt we had a good opportunity at legislative success, and have been trying to fan the flames on it ever since. I believe it’s coming to fruition. A lot of lobbying involves picking your battles carefully. So this is not only a priority with our membership, but also one we saw a really good potential to achieve. 

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One of the other big motivations is my own family. I tell folks that I can’t profess to speak for all veterans, but I do have the endorsement of one that I’m happy to pass along – that of my father. He’s a decorated Vietnam vet, dying of his exposure to Agent Orange. But Dad is a patriot and believes in separation of powers and constitutional balance, and wished me Godspeed in promoting this issue.

Those who came back from Vietnam didn’t get embraced and welcomed as heroes and it’s a very painful experience for them. They saw their colleagues fall beside them and didn’t have the full backing of the country. There was no formal declaration of war with resources to fight this battle. 

AR: Clearly this isn’t just a Kansas issue. How does the public attitude towards this compare in our state vs. nationally? 

BC: To talk raw politics at this point – red team, blue team – right now in Kansas we’ve got a GOP-controlled House and Senate, supermajority control of both, a Democrat in the governor’s seat, and a Democrat in the White House. So to take advantage of those Republican majorities and their willingness to curb gubernatorial authority, now’s the time to strike on this. 

It’s the classic federalism question: Who has authority? The state commander in chief, or the Pentagon? One of the big themes has been the legislature trying to curb the power of the executive – vaccine mandates and business closures and such. The whole idea has been trying to check and reduce the discretion of the executive. [Defend the Guard] fits in very nicely with that. 

We consider the 50 states to be different laboratories for democracy. It only takes one to set the example for the others. Defend the Guard is a relatively new movement; it’s been introduced in 31 states. It hasn’t been passed anywhere yet, but came very close in West Virginia.

And the Covid provision in our bill is especially timely due to recent challenges in Oklahoma and five other states.  The Pentagon is mandating vaccinations for all state guardsmen, so Oklahoma pushed back – even firing their Adjutant General because he was being compliant – and it filed a lawsuit against President Biden to try resolving who really has control over state Guard units that have not been federally deployed.

AR: What is the ideal outcome? 

BC: First, the enactment of this bill. Then, ideally, the Pentagon would recognize the sovereign authority of the state, as well as respect our decision to insulate guardsmen from the vaccine mandate. 

Over the weekend I spoke with another legislator supporter who has now formally requested that the Revisor’s office draft our bill and call on me for drafting advice. We have the committee chair’s agreement, so that bill draft is in progress for introduction early in the session. 

AR: You touched on this a bit earlier, but I want to ask again for more detail. Why is the Defend the Guard cause important to libertarians? 

BC: The underpinning of libertarian philosophy is the non-aggression principle, which fully respects the individual’s right to self-preservation and self-defence. It’s a very peace-driven philosophy. Nothing speaks peace better than the end of war – or, if there’s going to be war, it needs to be done explicitly and according to the Constitution

I’ve been part of the libertarian movement for 30 years. I’ve been educated in free-market principles and the value of freedom and liberty. I’ve run libertarian think tanks over the years. It’s been my calling for decades now. [Defend the Guard] is the latest iteration of that calling. If you don’t have elected officials to carry the ideas forward, you at least need lobbyists to do so – day in, day out, boots on the ground, to represent the philosophy and bring these libertarian arguments before the policymakers. That’s what we do with Frontier Peace. 

AR: Besides this bill, what else does Frontier Peace have in the works?

BC: Next steps are public education events to get this issue on everyone’s radar screen.  The most recent success was the Wichita Pachyderm. There were seven legislators in the audience, and lots of questions following the presentation. It was very well received, including by many military veterans in the audience. 

For a brief stint in 2006 I was the Kansas Commissioner of Education. At that time it was a conservative board, and we had the opportunity to talk about how we’re spending enough on K-12 already, as well as expanding school choice. I had no friends in the press; I was the most hated man in the state at that time. Kansas shows a lot of conservatism in the sense of “don’t rock the boat.” There is a reluctance to change – that’s what conservatism is. 

Frontier Peace will still be working on other priority items. We’ve been heavily engaged in school choice and medical marijuana, so we’re just adding [Defend the Guard] to the mix. We got medical marijuana out of the House for the first time last year, so that’s quite a landmark. It’s looking good to get out of the Senate. We pushed for a key school choice reform that was enacted, but [KS Governor Laura Kelly] threatened to veto and then eventually relented. We were presenting education reform that would allow scholarship programs to be expanded, all with private donations eligible for income tax credit, and applied to a lot more kids across the state. 

AR: Thanks so much for talking about this. Any last thoughts? 

BC: One of the rebuttals to what we’re trying to do is, “It’s a threat to our future Guard funding.” But, if Congress retaliated that way against Kansas for passing this bill, it would hamstring riot control, covid relief, etc. – all that would be compromised as well. It just doesn’t make sense. Why would Congress retaliate against us even though they’re not going to declare war? 

Also I think [military] leaders enjoy the status, and being an active part of combat troops. It’s a prestige thing. Incidentally, our proposal does nothing to stop the training of the guard units, nor all the weaponry and equipment needed should they ever be called into a declaration of war. They can even train overseas. But training is not active combat. There’s really no threat to the future of the guard we propose, other than if you’re going to go to war, do it constitutionally and get the whole country behind the effort. 

Bob Corkins is the Chief Lobbyist at Frontier Peace Advisors. Read more about the organization:

Learn more about Defend the Guard:

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