Midterm Elections - Change Is Certain

Whether the major victory scored by the Democratic Party in this week’s off-year elections will be the harbinger of even more sweeping changes in 2008 is far from certain. One of the few things that is certain, though, is that the president’s legislative and budgetary proposals in 2007 and 2008 will have to be acceptable to the new Democratic majority in the House if they are to have any hope of passage. The same is true for the administration’s foreign-policy initiatives. Even before the elections it seemed certain that a gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq was probable, and perhaps inevitable. The timetable might now be accelerated, but not dramatically. Neither of the two major parties wants to be accused of having “lost Iraq.” 

On the other hand, even a phased withdrawal, combined with the obviously antiwar mood of the American people, might make North Korea and Iran more intransigent, and that could cause much more serious foreign-policy problems in the future. Whatever happens overseas, it seems probable that defense spending will be cut, perhaps starting as early as next year. Such reductions should not and probably will not be too massive in scale, though. The hardware inventories of all of the nation’s armed services are worn out and depleted, with the nation’s Guard and Reserve forces in perhaps the greatest need of replenishment and replacement. 

The defense cutbacks probably will be offset to some extent by increased funding for the Department of Homeland Security – for several reasons. The first is political: Almost all members of Congress recognize that U.S. taxpayers are increasingly frustrated by paying – in the lives of young Americans as well as in dollars – for a seemingly endless war that has not demonstrably enhanced their own security. Whether that view is correct or not is irrelevant – it is what many if not all Americans think. Additional spending for homeland security is an entirely different matter. It makes Americans feel safer, at least. In addition, the taxpayer dollars are spent at home, usually to U.S. companies and American workers. 

Of much greater importance, though, is the fact that much of the money spent on sensor and detection systems, on improved medical care, on transportation security, and on a host of other systems and equipment pays off not just in thwarting terrorist attacks but also in coping with earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. Those same detection and sensor systems, it should be noted, are extremely important to the nation’s armed services as well as to the Border Patrol, customs inspectors, and civilian law-enforcement agencies. 

The next Congress might also take the lead in two important areas in which the administration has had only limited success – the improvement of U.S. port and maritime security, and a much more rigorous enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws. Just before adjourning for the election recess both houses of Congress passed, and the president signed into law, one important bill to upgrade port security. There are certain loopholes and limitations in that law, though, that should be addressed by the next Congress as early as possible in the next session. True immigration reform will be much harder to achieve. The American people are still divided on the issue, and so was the outgoing Congress. Whether the next Congress will do any better has yet to be seen. Two more years of inaction – of failure, in other words – could make the lack of immigration reform the key issue in 2008. Again, only time will tell.

Martin D. Masiuk

Martin (Marty) Masiuk is president and founder of International Media Representatives Inc. (IMR Group Inc.), which was established in 1986 as an American-based media representation firm for overseas, aerospace, and defense publications. In 1998, under the IMR Group, he established DomesticPreparedness.com, which has evolved into a highly trusted, and important information service for the multi-disclipline, multi-jurisdiction preparedness community. In 2014, he transitioned the DomPrep40 into the Preparedness Leadership Council to lessen the burden on and increase the effectiveness of operational preparedness professionals and help policy professionals make better-informed decisions. Prior to IMR Group, he served as an account representative for McGraw Hill’s Business Week and Aviation Week & Space Technology publications.



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