What is your position on the National Defense Authorization Act?
After more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is one very important lesson our nation must acknowledge: Our national security cannot live and die by the sword. Tanks and bombs alone will not ensure peace and security at home or abroad. It is time that our national security strategy and defense budget reflect these realities.
Our nation’s brave men and women in uniform have served with an unwavering commitment to defend our country’s ideals and way of life. After years of sacrifice, we now owe them a path home. I am encouraged that President Obama has announced a timeline to bring our troops home from Afghanistan, but I hope this is only the start of a new direction for our national security.
The National Defense Authorization Act is the legislative vehicle to guide our national security policy in a new direction. Defense spending accounts for more than 50 percent of the funds Congress appropriates every year, and 20 percent of total government spending, which reflects our nation’s intention to lead with force. That is the message we are sending the world and to the American people.
Year after year we are faced with the same dilemma: continue to support bloated military budgets and cut domestic programs, or set our nation on a new course. The outcome is clear: increases in defense spending have forced our nation to divert limited fiscal resources away from projects and programs that invest in education, infrastructure and the future of our county. What we have to show for the sacrifice are valuable lives lost and military interventions that have produced limited results and no long-term security.
As calls for the federal government to get its fiscal house in order continue to sound louder, one thing has become clear. We cannot continue to increase defense spending, and to invest in our country’s future. We simply cannot do both. The “guns and butter” approach didn’t work a generation ago during the Vietnam War. It won’t work now.
How we move forward will require that we evaluate our values, and answer fundamental questions about our priorities. We can continue to go down the road of building an expanded military force, that does nothing to help our fiscal solvency problem; or we can set a new course that emphasizes diplomacy and ground-up assistance abroad, and helps us reduce our budget deficit. I strongly support the latter.
As a return Peace Corps volunteer, I have seen firsthand what the power of friendship and a helping hand can do to uplift entire communities. These types of missions have the capability to show the world an inspiring, uplifting side of humanity that reflects our better nature. Service to others can be our great common cause of global peace and development.
Furthermore, diplomatic and humanitarian interventions are cost-effective, proven ways to decrease the duration of conflict, bring lasting security to war-torn areas, and reduce the devastating impacts to our service members. This needs to be our priority, and the place to start is by cutting our purchasing of guns and bombs. Instead we need to focus on the apparatus of our military that builds cultural bridges and closes gaps of misunderstanding.
Our nation needs a new guiding principle to drive our foreign policy. Building up our defense has proven that it is not sustainable fiscal policy or foreign policy. I will continue to voice my support of defense budget cuts, and continue to champion efforts that support diplomatic and humanitarian paths towards peace and security.