Global Military Dominance Through Health Care And Solar Panels

Two prominent advisers to the Joint Chiefs of Staff think adopting social and environmental change is the best path to maintaining America's global hegemony.

Army solar

Two prominent advisers to the Joint Chiefs of Staff think that the future of U.S. global dominance isn't in more bombs or faster jets. Rather, it's a question of focusing more on making sure we're taking care of the people on the home front, with universal health care; the environment; and the rest of the world, with renewable energy and humanitarian aid. This argument just came out in an influential policy paper that has Washington talking.

Captain Wayne Porter of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Colonel Mark Mykleby, who wrote the paper for the Woodrow Wilson Center, argue that the United States has its policies all wrong. America's greatest national security threats aren't terrorism or foreign armies—they are a crumbling infrastructure at home, the depletion of natural resources, climate change, and an overdependence on what they call "defense and protectionism." Counterintuitively, this paper from special assistants to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, argues that America's best hopes for world leadership lie in classical left-wing tropes of conservation, soft power, and aggressive humanitarian work abroad.

Here are their four biggest (and most controversial) suggestions:

  • Turning American foreign aid policies upside down. According to Mykleby and Porter, the United States should be "out-competing the grey and black market, funding research to develop alternate and sustainable sources of energy, adapting farming for low-water-level environments, anticipating and limiting the effects of pandemics, generating viable economies to relieve urbanization and migration, marginalizing extremism and demonstrating the futility of anti-modernism [...] better managing the global information grid." In other words, we should be directing funding toward innovating global solutions, not military technology.
  • Massively increased spending on third-world humanitarian projects and aid projects at home for the United States' poor and lower middle-class. First on the list? America's health and educational systems, along with illiteracy and climate change abroad. According to the authors, preserving American global dominance is best served by preventing the conditions for chaos abroad and keeping America's infrastructure and population competitive
  • The creation of a "National Prosperity and Security Act" along the lines of the 1947 National Security Act. The 1947 act was responsible for the creation of the Department of Defense and provided the blueprint for the Central Intelligence Agency's early years. Porter and Mykleby's version would be equally heavy-duty, boosting funding to government agencies dealing with environmental issues and sustainability while forcing research agencies to pour big bucks into research into renewable-energy tech.
  • Cutting down on military spending, especially for ventures abroad. Porter and Mykleby write that "for too long, we have underutilized sectors of our government and our citizenry writ large, focusing intensely on defense and protectionism rather than on development and diplomacy." Strange words coming from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

This is a policy whose vagueness gives it a good shot at being implemented. Porter and Mykleby work as special assistants to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen and have spent over 20 years in service each. To be blunt, strategists for the Joint Chiefs of Staff don't release policy papers through think tanks that argue for drastic changes in government activity without at least unofficial sanction from their bosses.

As could be expected, reaction to the paper is mixed. CNN's Fareed Zakaria thinks its a coded call to shrink the military and the right-wing Heritage Foundation sort of agrees, calling it a "not very assertive" document.

But for people wondering if the military is going soft, Porter and Mykleby's paper was released at an extremely providential time. With Osama Bin Laden's death at the hands of highly trained military operatives in an old-fashioned, top secret operation, many of the people who push the levers of the government and military are wondering what comes next. If this paper has its way, it will be "homeland sustainability" instead of "homeland security."

[Image: Flickr user Isafmedia]

For more stories like this, follow @fastcompany on Twitter. Email Neal Ungerleider, the author of this article, here.

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6 Comments

  • Spz Kaz

    These previous comments are written by blithering idiots. Ralph Haygood...we need a military to do military business...such as keeping american citizens from being tortured and murdered after taking it in the backside (obviously not a concern of you or your president). We have people taking care of solar panels and medical care...they are called energy companies and doctors. 
    Pat Cappozi is obviously a communist pig. Ruth Ledesma does not think we should spend any money "policing" abroad even as dozens of children are being murdered in Syria, but has no problem with "gazillions" being spent to "police" carbon footprints or to buy votes for democrats. Is gazillion even a word? I guess 16 trillion in debt over free homes, food and condoms just does not sound big enough. Jim Hartzfeld feels that anything that has been successful in the past is still not good enough. Losers like him just want to make a name for themselves with the "New Deals" and "Great Societies" and has no concern whatsoever about the real impact it has on society. Hey Jim, why don't you try to figure out how to grow grass without water, soil or fertilizer as Joe Biden has described. Then I will listen to you and your crazy ideas. And last of all is Tony Wasserman. Any relation to Debbie "Blabbermouth" Shultz? This fool believes that the answer to the world's economic problems is for the U.S. to adopt the metric system. Apparently he did not consider the financial impact of the economy for the entire industrial complex to retool. I am sure that would be in the billions as well....but then liberals never really care about other peoples money...they only pretend to when it suits their arguement. He does not care about the financial impact to the economy when there is a union auto company to bail out.

  • Ruth Ledesma

    What refreshing ideas! It's about time the US stopped being the "police," spending gazillions of dollars to keep soldiers in bases and on battlefields around the world. Leadership can be demonstrated in far more effective ways. Hoorah!

  • Jim Hartzfeld

    Believe it or not, there are still some idealists in business. Some are even older that 50! The potentially critical difference here is the narrative, not the logic. For those pursuing sustainability through a multinational corporate context like we have at Interface, Inc., they have likely experienced the limited ability of facts and logic to move a large body of people in any direction. Pick the topic.

    Here is a compelling transnational narrative that can breath life into policy, procedures and mindsets. I want to meet these guys! They have articulated the key trends showing that the highly successful policies designed in the closed world following WWII are maladapted for the open world we see today.

    On every level, it's up to us to find better, smarter ways to compete and lead. Immediately we should encourage governmental policy to begin aligning to support long term investments in these three areas: our youth through education and healthcare policy, sustainable security through development and diplomacy and "...sustainable access to, cultivation and use of our natural resources." Likewise, use this lens to accelerate the transformation of your companies for this open world of scarce resources and exploding knowledge and connectivity.

    We have been bumping up against the limitations of this 1950's mindset for a couple of decades. When are we going to wake up and see a new way? Read this article and pass it on.

  • Tony Wasserman

    I agree with Ralph Haygood, but let me throw in one more possibility that should have some appeal to America's Captains of Greed.

    The US is the only country in the world that uses the obscure English system of weights and measures. Forty years ago, Congress voted not to push conversion to the metric system. That decision costs us billions of dollars, as almost every consumer product sold in the US is double-labeled (English and metric). The rest of the world buys metric, so full conversion to the metric system would help our manufacturing base, which mostly uses metric already. It might take a while, but I think that the average American will eventually be able to grasp the similarity between a quart and a liter, 2 pounds and a kilogram, and 10 km vs. 6 miles. The switch would be a huge win for companies like GE; If the Jeffrey Immelts of the world lobby for this switch, it is more likely to happen.

  • Ralph Haygood

    Ah, those Navy and Marine officers - what a bunch of impractical idealists!

    Seriously, the wisdom of these recommendations is rather obvious. What has largely prevented and, I confidently predict, will largely prevent them from ever being implemented is the relentless greed of the moneyed interests that now have a near stranglehold on the U.S. government. To put it bluntly, what's in these proposals for the likes of Charles and David Koch? Or Lloyd Blankfein? Or Jeffrey Immelt? If, as I suspect, the answer is, "Not much," then the prognosis is, "Ain't gonna happen."

  • pat capozzi

    Possibly the most important ideas to come out of the United States since
    the Marshal Plan. Pass this information on, like it on facebook, tweet
    it, talk about it to anyone who will listen! America, maybe we can change! Good, sane Americans mobilize. Here is our manifesto!