Education more important than defense spending in 2013

by Kelly Gardner

The average cost to support one soldier for one year in Afghanistan in 2012 was $850,000. For the same amount of money, 41 students could attend San Diego State for one year.

Life as a college student can be tough, and in recent years it has only become more difficult. Not only has competition for admission increased dramatically, but the cost to attend college has almost doubled since 2000. Most of these cost increases have been driven by cuts to education budgets.

Currently, military and defense spending consumes the majority of the U.S. government’s yearly discretionary budget. Military spending needs to be redirected toward educational spending in order to improve U.S schools.

Pursuing education is something society preaches over and over again, and with good reason. Having an educated society drives the U.S. forward as a country and as a global community. We have expanded our capabilities in diverse fields because we are able to capitalize on innovative new ideas and improve on existing technology. Education is also a major factor in how we produce our leaders. Whether they are leading our country or our communities, good leaders know that education is the foundation of a successful society. In a recent Huffington Post poll, 62 percent of participants believed most people were not able to afford college.

Additionally, respondents to the poll who had an education were found more likely to view college as unaffordable. If even the educated members of our society are viewing a degree as difficult to obtain, we need to re-evaluate our system. For some Americans, the struggle to get through high school is far too great to even begin thinking about college. In schools performing below standards, as well as highly impacted areas, students are struggling to gain even the most basic education. Why are educational institutions, from grade schools to universities, receiving such little support?

An obvious indicator may come to our attention when we consider how the U.S spent more on military in 2011 than 13 other major nations combined, including China, Russia, England and France, according to a Washington Post report. The proposed discretionary budget for 2014 has 57 percent of all U.S. funds being funneled toward the military, while only six percent is being directed toward education. The ability to defend our nation is absolutely necessary, but we are spending far too much compared to the rest of the world.

The U.S. Department of Defense regularly purchases missiles and rockets that cost $1 million dollars each, which is equivalent to the average salary of 25 schoolteachers here in California. If we were to opt out of building just five F-35 fighter planes, we could redirect $565 million toward schools. There are so many obvious ways to cut spending without drastically harming our ability to defend our country.

The problem is not as straightforward as it may seem. After World War II the federal government spent large amounts of money on both education and the military. Education was highly valued after the war, and post-war society placed tremendous emphasis on creating a highly literate society that was capable of moving on to higher educational institutions.

Director of SDSU’s International Security and Conflict Resolution program Jonathan Graubart explains, “The military, like most other major components of U.S. society, is shaped by who wields the most power domestically. So we maintained and expanded a huge military-based economy after WWII because it offered an economic boost and subsidy to powerful domestic sectors, like high tech and other major industries and could, to some extent, be spread out across many communities in the country.”

This type of spending was beneficial to our country at one time, but unfortunately times change and our economic future won’t get any brighter if we continue to throw money at the military. Our federal spending habits are causing the U.S. to experience a major lack of funding in critical areas.

The U.S used to lead the world with the highest number of young adults who had college degrees, but as of 2011 we aren’t even among the top ten countries in the world in terms of education. Other countries are surpassing us simply because they have chosen to make education a priority.