Does the U.S. Need a Unified Security Budget?

Does the U.S. Need a Unified Security Budget? On Boston Globe's op-ed page yesterday, two security experts - Lawrence Korb from the Center for American Progress and former assistant secretary of defense and Miriam Pemberton of Foreign Policy in Focus - argued the United States needs a unified security budget.

 What would a unified security budget do? In would pull all security spending into one document so that the American people could ascertain exactly where our tax dollars are going that make us safe.

More importantly, because all the data's sitting conveniently in one document, they argue the American public can debate where funds should be most effectively allocated.

Since the U.S. government doesn't do it, Korb, Pemberton, and a host of other security experts do. Here's what they say:

That is why we convene a group of security experts every year to produce a mock-up of what we argue our government should be providing: "A Unified Security Budget for the United States." We bring all the categories of security spending in the president's budget request together in one budget. This exercise shows that in fiscal 2008, 90 percent of all our foreign policy and security resources are allocated to the military; 6 percent are devoted to homeland security; 4 percent go to the tools of conflict prevention, including diplomacy, foreign aid, peacekeeping, and nuclear nonproliferation.

A single security budget would enable consideration of security trade-offs like the following: the F-22 fighter jet, one of the most troubled and strategically questionable programs in the U.S. arsenal, is set to receive a $600 million increase in the president's budget. Forgoing this increase could permit any of these alternatives: tripling the amount budgeted to cancel the debt that is crippling development in the world's poorest countries; increasing U.S. contributions to international peacekeeping operations by 50 percent; tripling the amount allocated in fiscal 2007 for domestic rail and transit security programs.

The way the security pie is divvied up is interesting for a score of reasons. Most prominently, many critics and experts on terrorism argue there is no real military solution to terrorism. Terrorism is too ethereal. Terrorism strikes quickly and then fades and disperses until the next attack. It's a tactic, not an ideology. Therefore, many argue that to beat back terrorism, you must confront the socio-economic and political causes, however illusive they may be, which drive people towards indiscriminate political violence. And because the root causes of terrorism are so obscure, it is smarter to fortify the homefront and use the tools of conflict prevention more effectively. This doesn't mean you let the military whither, but you do strike a balance among all the security tools in the arsenal. This is not easy, but if Korb and Pemberton's numbers are correct, the U.S. doesn't even look like its trying.

To read "A Unified Security Budget for the United States," click here.



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