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DoD Educates Employees on U.S. Constitution

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2006 – All Defense Department civilians pledge to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies” when they take the federal oath of office upon joining the department, so defense civilians should seek to learn more about the government that they -- like U.S. servicemembers -- have vowed to protect, DoD officials believe.

“As Federal civil servants supporting the Department of Defense, we have a special obligation to understand and appreciate the U.S. Constitution and the role we each play in providing ‘for the common defense,’” Patricia S. Bradshaw, deputy undersecretary of defense for civilian personnel policy, said in a statement announcing DoD’s participation in the observance of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.

Congressional legislation proposed by West Virginia Sen. Robert C. Byrd and enacted by U.S. Public Law 108-447 on Dec. 8, 2004, designated Sept. 17 each year as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. It requires each federal agency, including DoD, to provide new employees with educational and training materials about the U.S. Constitution as part of orientation materials, a senior official who works in Bradshaw’s office said.

The law also requires federal agencies to provide U.S. Constitution education and training materials to each employee on Sept. 17 of each year. Also, each educational institution that receives federal funds is required to hold an educational program on the U.S. Constitution for its students each year on Sept. 17.

DoD civilians can gain more awareness about the U.S. Constitution, how their government is constructed and the origin of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day by taking a short online multi-media course available on a DoD Web site, the official said.

Sept. 17 was selected as the date to observe Constitution Day because delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall signed the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787. Citizenship Day focuses national attention on the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizens, both native-born and naturalized. Since this date falls on a Sunday this year, the day will be observed on Monday, Sept. 18.

Some citizens may not know the early American government did not have a federal constitution during the Revolutionary War period, 1775-1783. In fact, there was no constitution for years after the war ended. The country was instead organized as a loose association of the former 13 colonies under the Articles of Confederation, adopted by the Second Continental Congress on Nov. 15, 1777.

The articles established a relatively weak central government that had little authority over individual states. Many Americans at that time were leery of creating a strong centralized government since they were fighting for freedom from autocratic British rule.

However, the articles proved to be an ineffective framework to run a government. They prohibited the central government from imposing taxes to obtain needed revenue, and any changes to the articles required unanimous consent from all the states.

Many prominent U.S. leaders were dissatisfied with the articles and began to work to replace them. The articles were consigned to history when delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall signed the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Constitution was fully ratified by the states on June 21, 1788.

The Bill of Rights comprises the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, which were adopted between 1789 and 1791. The Bill of Rights was adopted to limit the power of the federal government. It designates U.S. citizens’ rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, and more.

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Constitution Day and Citizenship Day

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