Human Security and the U.S. Military Budget

WDN hosted an important tele-conference in January — Budget Concerns: How the U.S. Military Budget Impacts Women and Human Security Globally. Stephen Miles explained the current truths about military budget spending and provided insight about how to promote military budget alternatives that aim at a secure “Security Budget” approach rather than the current military spending strategy. Dr. Lisa Schirch discussed problems with current national security goals, and explained why methods like “human security” would create more security for relations between the United States and foreign countries. In addition, Miles and Dr. Schirch offered key criteria for coalitions to be successfully heard by Congress members.

Asking Congress members to support a “Security Budget” includes diplomacy, development, intelligence, and many other factors like what the American people want. When asked in polls, “Would you rather decrease the military budget or education budget,” Miles noted Americans always choose the military budget. The military budget is incredibly large in comparison to other government-funded budgets; the military budget in 2012 is estimated to be $633.2 billion, as compared to other budgets like the Department of Education, $77.4 billion, or Department of Health and Human Services, $79.9 billion. In sum, the military budget is worth 20% of the total U.S. budget. Ideally distribution of money should be parallel to the values of individual Americans, but the military budget clearly demonstrates what is important to Congress: the military, not the American people.

According to Miles, in order to begin the task of understanding why the military budget is worth 20% of the U.S. budget, we must demystify where money is being allocated and for what reason. Within the military budget, military spending takes up 58% of the entire budget. The question arises, is that amount necessary to maintain national security? Miles answers: No, we continue to support programs that do not work, thus, we need to re-evaluate our budget in order to allow each program to become stronger and more secure.

Miles suggests a few tangible ways to decrease military spending:

  • Decreasing the amount of troops, which in effect would decrease veteran funds, too.
  • Hire less private military contractors because civilian troops can do the same job.
  • Stop spending money on weapon systems from the 1980’s, like the F35, which were designed to defeat Soviet air forces that no longer exist.

Dr. Lisa Schirch agrees with re-evaluating the military budget and further added today’s “national security” approach needs to be re-defined in order to achieve global amity. Dr. Schirch states a common expression by Americans and its leaders when discussing national security, “We have to do what is in the best interest for the U.S’ economic interest.” Dr. Schirch notes expressions like the one mentioned create a defense-offense binary between the U.S. and foreign countries. As an outcome of our current approach to national security we have entered an economic depression and have violently hurt innocent civilians. The U.S. military acts as a violent defender to its neighboring countries in order to achieve economic prosperity is simply becoming illogical.

A more logical approach to disentangle global conflicts and build peace is what Dr. Schirch calls the “human security” approach. Accompanied by the inherent belief that societies are interdependent, Dr. Schirch firmly believes the foundation of creating “human security” is establishing an open dialogue for civic societies to discuss and act; thus, women, men, and children must be involved in making their own community. Dr. Schirch brought to light various ingredients for creating security such as trauma healing, educational forums, and reconciliation work within cultures and cross-cultures. Re-defining national security through a “human security” approach would strengthen what exactly the needs and wants of civic society are and help aid communities to solve problems with each other and help build long-lasting relationships.

In order to achieve military budget cuts and create alternate versions of security Stephen Miles and Dr. Lisa Schirch both agree successful coalition building is prompted through 4 steps:

  • Ask yourself, who is the best target for creating change? For example, in order to revise the military budget, Miles suggests talking to the Appropriations Committee and its sub-committee, and the Armed Services Committee.
  • Look at the pressure points in the campaigns in order to know when a fight is winnable and when the fight is not.
  • Look at the problems of a situation in order to identify solutions that are possible.
  • Talk to your representatives by visiting the Washington offices and local district offices. Dr. Schirch suggests begin at your local district because appointments are easier to obtain and it builds up a larger more authentic constituency. For example, to increase individual American voices that recognize U.S. Security and its budget as interdependent on global human security start with direct advocacy at a local district office.


Featured Image: © Matthew Loken | Wikimedia Commons

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