The United States continues to struggle through a time of economic uncertainty. Financial bailouts and stimulus packages have been deployed with mixed results, the outcome of which is a second round of quantitative easing, a last resort effort to generate economic expansion. In addition to the dire fiscal situation, military operations continue to tax the nation’s coffers. With few options remaining to stimulate the economy after quantitative easing, new strategies for economic stability must be developed. One such option involves the United States military.
American military expenditures for fiscal year 2010, not including overseas contingency operations, total $533.7 billion. The DOD dedicates a large portion of this budget to maintaining military garrisons in western Europe and east Asia. These installations require lease payments, facilities maintenance, and manpower. Well over 125,000 troops are stationed in ally nations, not including their families, civilian contractors or those afloat. Defense related operations and personnel thus channel nearly one hundred billion dollars into foreign, wealthy economies each year. Compared to the price tag of recent stimulus packages, one could conclude the annual cost of maintaining overseas troop levels could be better spent at home.
The U.S. military presence in western democracies is an anachronism of WWII and the Cold War that no longer serves the security interests of the United States. Modern technology makes global projection all the easier, further invalidating the need for international troop deployments. Despite these realities the current political climate makes a troop draw down impossible. Consequently, the economic benefits of high troop numbers should be seized by returning the majority of personnel not deployed in support of the war on terror back to the United States. To do this would require building or refurbishing the domestic infrastructure to support the hundreds of thousands of people who would be returning to the United States. This new construction would employ thousands around the nation, stimulate real estate markets, and ensure U.S. tax dollars are spent in U.S. markets.
The stimulus effects of this program would be enhanced by placing efficiency requirements on all new construction. This would entail energy conservation and green construction practices while mandating military installations pursue independence from the local energy grids by deploying renewable modes of electricity generation. These policies offer several benefits: first, they set a federal standard for construction and implementation of modern energy technologies; they expand markets for renewable energy infrastructure, driving down prices and enabling widespread adoption; they produce a variety of temporary and permanent non-defense jobs in numerous industries, and they demonstrate a federal commitment to energy efficiency and renewable energy generation. The ultimate outcome of these policies is a reduction in unemployment and the promotion of a new energy infrastructure.
This program of stimulating the economy, repositioning the military, and supporting energy efficiency and independence benefits the people of the United States in numerous ways and aligns with my personal viewpoints of how to secure America in the twenty-first century. The changing political landscape requires the U.S. to adopt environmental and martial policies in order to lead by example rather than force. My experience serving in the military revealed to me the unnecessary and wasteful stationing of defense personnel in western democracies. My international travels and studies have introduced me to a global culture of unity rather than division. U.S. policy must emphasize a position of international responsibility and citizenship rather than hegemony. I believe the program reviewed above generates the greatest economic and political benefit for the people of the United States at the lowest cost, offering one leg of a new course towards continued American prosperity.