CRS: Economics a Growing Factor in National Security

Economic vitality and national security are now inextricably intertwined, a new report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service explains.

“There is scarcely an economic policy issue before the Congress that does not affect U.S. national security.  Likewise, there is scarcely a national security policy issue that does not affect the economy.”

“The United States has long been accustomed to pursuing a ‘rich man’s’ approach to national security,” the CRS report said. “The country could field an overwhelming fighting force and combine it with economic power and leadership in global affairs to bring to bear far greater resources than any other country against any threat to the nation’s security…. [In the past,] policies for economic growth and issues such as unemployment have been viewed as domestic problems largely separate from considerations of national security.”

“The world, however, has changed.  Globalization, the rise of China, the prospect of an unsustainable debt burden, unprecedented federal budget deficits, the success of mixed economies with both state-owned and private businesses, huge imbalances in international trade and capital flows, and high unemployment have brought economics more into play in considerations of national security.”

Consequently, “In national security, the economy is both the enabler and the constraint.”

The 77-page CRS report examines the intersection of economics and national security across a range of policies, including trade, education, research and development, and so on.  The text is occasionally prosaic (e.g., “trade represents an exchange of goods or services between two or more willing parties”) but it is also full of detailed and interesting information that may be useful to those who have not already made up their minds on this set of issues.

See “Economics and National Security: Issues and Implications for U.S. Policy,” Congressional Research Service, January 4, 2011.

No Responses to “CRS: Economics a Growing Factor in National Security”

  1. George Smith January 26, 2011 at 12:25 PM #

    Well done! It certainly is a surprise, and a nice one, to see CRS take up the issue and publish a statement like this, if even only as a rhetorical instrument, in the introduction:

    “What good is protection from a future threat, when I am
    unemployed because my job just went to China?”

    On the downside, there is a statement like this one, which oddly describes the benefits of a strong technically educated labor force:

    “In addition, technical and engineering education provides
    the US with workers who can provide direct security
    benefits, such as technological innovation that
    keeps the military at the forefront of technological
    capabilities and engineering skill that provides
    advanced weaponry as well as a secure infrastructure.”

    Most people would probably say US science has provided benefit far beyond military security. Others might add that technical and engineering education for the military isn’t threatened — because labor expense and resourcing is still no real object — but that the commitment and resourcing for universal long-term basic research is certainly not what it needs to be.

    One might also have wished for a discussion of security threats to the system of international finance which did not ignore the elephant in the room — Wall Street.

    Anyway, not a bad product at all. Perhaps in the very near future someone will ask CRS to produce a similar discussion on the disappearance of US manufacturing.

    I’ve been discussing the economy as a national security issue for well over a year, under the title of Made in China.

    And it encompasses many of the same issues! If in a less gentlemanly fashion.