It seemed like such a good idea back in the day: send some idealistic kids off to far-flung villages in the developing world and let them polish the United States' image by doing good works. Think of it as the Kennedy-era version of a "gap year," only harder and with less surfing. But 50 years after JFK promised to send "America's best resource" out into the world to do good, and decades after joining the Peace Corps became the obligatory resume line for every budding hippie-turned-dotcom millionaire, The Boston Globe is wondering if we still need the Corps? More than 200,000 Americans have served as volunteers in the organization since its founding. And as the anniversary year celebrations unfold, a support lobby is asking for additional government cash for the Corps and more volunteers. With a budget of $400 million in 2010 and a mission to send 9,000 volunteers into risky environments every year, some are wondering if Kennedy's grand vision has run its course. During hearings on Capitol Hill this week, some women testified about the lack of support they got from the Corps after they were raped and sexually abused in their postings and others pointed out that the "soft power" mission of presenting friendly face to America during the then Cold War might not be relevant anymore. Yes, volunteers still do good works, but with no re-definition of its mission in the 20 years since the Cold War ended, what, exactly does the Corps do? Some former members have circulated a 150-page memo outlining their vision for how the Corps can update its mission for an organization in which more than one-third of the volunteers quit before their two-year missions are over. With proper rejiggering, critics say the PC "could be a unique resource for investing energetic young volunteers with the power to make meaningful changes in the countries where they are stationed." Without reform, though, they're afraid it might slide toward "being a corps of idealistic, well-intentioned young people sent to distant nations simply to socialize with other Americans like them." And with everyone facing harsh budget cuts in these deficit-choked times, do American taxpayers really want to foot the bill for what one critic called "a two-year vacation in a foreign land?" Is it time to mothball the Peace Corps?