In Austria, every male citizen is subject to compulsory military service. However, there is an automatic right to opt for civilian community service instead. A significant majority go this route, spending a year providing eldercare or doing environmental protection work. With these options, there is no need for special provisions to protect conscientious objectors. Austria’s universal national service suggests the untapped potential of such opportunities in the United States and other countries. In the United States, a bipartisan national commission released a report in 2020 recognizing the need for service opportunities outside the military and recommended providing “service-year opportunities so ubiquitous that service becomes a rite of passage for millions of young adults.”

A conscientious objector to military service asks how he can best serve his nation.