CRS: Economics a Growing Factor in National Security

01.26.11 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

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.