As the Trump Administration prepares to cut in half the budget for the National Invasive Species Council, a group of invasive species experts led by a University of Rhode Island professor has issued a warning about the growing peril of biological invasions and the increasing threat they pose to the economy, environment, public health and national security.
Along with colleagues James Carlton, professor of marine sciences emeritus at Williams College, David Lodge, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University, and Daniel Simberloff, the Nancy Gore Hunger professor at the University of Tennessee, Meyerson published an editorial in this week's edition of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. In it they note that biological invasions in the United States "remain an unrelenting environmental and economic calamity impacting all segments of society.
The scientists note that the rapid movement of plants, animals, disease agents and pathogens into the country has the potential to trigger epidemics that sweep through human populations, crops and fisheries. In it they note that biological invasions in the United States "remain an unrelenting environmental and economic calamity impacting all segments of society.
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The scientists note that the rapid movement of plants, animals, disease agents and pathogens into the country has the potential to trigger epidemics that sweep through human populations, crops and fisheries. In addition, climate change is facilitating the arrival of new invaders and the expansion of established ones. Executive orders over the last 40 years from Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama have acknowledged the impact of invasive species and highlighted the necessity of interagency cooperation, public education and technology to prevent and manage invasions.
Republicans will likely block tax increases, Democrats will protect entitlements, and deficit-reduction efforts will focus on discretionary spending, more than half of which belongs to the Pentagon. The primary reason that the Pentagon budget should be cut is that it is far bigger than threats to U.
Three points are worth noting here. First, U. The dangers that states create militaries to combat — invasion and civil war — are unthinkable here. Second, little of the U. Even a more expansive war against the Islamic State and the various remaining al Qaeda affiliates would not require added military capability or spending in the base nonwar Pentagon budget — unless, that is, the United States launches another manpower-intensive counterinsurgency operation in a foreign state or two.
Third, the nations that threaten the United States are historically few and weak. North Korea remains a blustery troublemaker with a tiny nuclear arsenal and a ballistic missile arsenal of decent range. But poverty has atrophied its military capabilities to the point that its internal collapse is a bigger threat than its aggression. Iran has the money to fund extremists like Hezbollah and to antagonize its neighbors.
But its military lacks the expeditionary capability to pose much direct threat to its neighbors, let alone U. The recent nuclear deal does not much affect that military balance. Russia is considerably more capable and a threat to its weak neighbors, especially Ukraine. Of course, in the longer term the most capable challenger to the U. Should it sustain its rapid growth, which is doubtful, and continue its recent rate of investment in its naval and air forces, it could become the dominant military power in East Asia and even rival the United States in some respects.
Several recent think tank studies suggest that improved Chinese surveillance and missile capability will soon threaten U. That capability, it is feared, will deter U.
That argument should not preclude a drawdown for several reasons. One is that it overlooks countermeasures that U.
If need be, U. Three, the argument overstates the difficulty of deterrence. It implies that only invulnerable forces can deter aggression, which would have surprised the Cold War architects of U.
The real reason U. The primacy strategy of global military dominance, which Chapter 65 discusses, fails to guide choices among military responses to danger. Because primacy sees threats and prescribes forces almost everywhere, it offers little basis for budgetary limits or prioritization.
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In that sense, it is less a strategy than a justification for expansive military ambitions. At a minimum, it endorses the present size of the U. A strategy of restraint, by contrast, would husband U. By keeping U. A less busy military could be a smaller and cheaper one. It recommends savings via managerial reforms — acquisition reforms, improved financial management, and empowering civilian technocrats to eliminate programs that seem redundant. The problem with that approach is that the spending it targets is a chimera.
Achieving real Pentagon savings requires having fewer goals and taking on the special interests dependent on the associated spending. That is essentially the approach that the White House and congressional leadership inadvertently selected by agreeing to spending caps while asking the Pentagon to do everything it had been doing. One virtue of legislated future caps is that they lock in future Congresses.
The difficulty of overcoming the status quo protects the cuts. This method also has the advantage of being the most doable; it is easier to agree on cutting spending than on a strategic rationale for doing so. In theory, budgetary restraint can drive efficiency and strategic restraint.
Heightened resource constraints encourage service leaders to squeeze overhead costs more than instructions to find fat. Spending constraints also require more prioritization among goals, which is the essence of strategic planning. Particularly when interservice competition occurs, budgetary pressure can cause the services to debate priorities and offer alternatives to policymakers looking to limit objectives and save money. The Navy, for example, in promoting offshore methods of meeting threats, might highlight the risks of deploying U. The strategic and Nike methods of cutting the budget could be fruitfully combined.
Restraint, in the sense of having fewer allies and wars, is possible without budget cuts; but in the absence of fiscal pressure to adjust, restraint would likely be little more than a slogan used by those doing the same old things. By articulating a strategy of restraint, imposing lower caps, and encouraging interservice competition, leaders could get the best of both approaches.
Restraint-oriented reforms would arrive gradually as the United States exited alliances, ended wars, closed facilities, and retired forces. They would be achieved by reducing commitments and military units.