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Friday, March 24, 2017

Military Spending vs. Higher Education

Should we spend on Education or the Military? As a nation we must debate the use of our money in order to ensure we are using national resources in a way that further the interest of the country. Budget battles and rising costs are hitting the necessary functions of higher education and the military hard in a way that makes us believe the battle is between the two. The guns vs. butter debate has been a staple for intellectual debate since the beginning of modern society.

It isn't easy to choose one over the other and few can claim they have the right answers. We need a strong military that can handle the growing threats around the world but at the same time we need an educated workforce that keeps our economy growing. The argument has been pitted education vs. military when this is not really the case.

The question really isn't whether we should or should not be spending on either of these institutions, but whether we need to rethink them. When our hands are tied with limited budgets and we don't have new sources of revenue coming anytime soon, we need to find new ways of solving the problem. It requires a paradigm shift in our thinking.

People relate to institutions through a cultural lens based on past experiences which make it difficult for them to view them differently.  As time changes, we must continually update our thinking or otherwise we get stuck in process that doesn't allow for necessary adjustments and changes.

We have a number of options when it comes to the military and higher education budget:

1. Cut military funding and spend more on higher education.
2. Cut higher education funding and spend more on the military.
3. Do nothing.
4. Cut other programs and put the saved money into the military, higher education, or both.
5. Rethink one or both institutions and force reforms that make them more cost effective while not reducing performance.

Option 1,2, &3 seem to be the mindset we are in as a nation. We are thinking this is an either/or debate where one leads to the other because we framed it that way. The news media reports it this way, our political leaders are trying to sell it this way, and we have come to understand it this way. However, we might consider a combination of 4 and 5 as our best approach.

If the military and higher education are important to us, we can consider reviewing all government spending and closing programs that are of less importance and allocating that money to higher education and the military. It is even possible to use the argument that since higher education has a big influence on quality of life, health, productivity, and the economy we may want to cut other social programs and focus on quality education and the military capacity to protect our lifestyle.

We may also want to rethink both institutions and review what is working, what isn't, and the best uses of money. Could we reform higher education to make it more relevant as well as cost effective whereby it educates more people at a higher level? Certainly, we can consider the growing push to reform and looming budgeting problems as a signal that option 5 may be a serious one to consider. Likewise, pushing our military to do more with less while reforming to increase capacity can't hurt if it is done in a logical and sound manner.

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