After a month of recess, Congress’s re-emergence in Washington on September 9th had a strange feel to it. In recent years, this annual return is often accompanied by great fanfare regarding an impending decision that must be made on the federal budget for the coming fiscal year which begins October 1st. This year, however, was much more tempered – it seemed like the focus was actually on the work that needed to be done rather than informing media outlets about the work that needed to be done. In this case, the work that required immediate attention referenced the ongoing conflict in Syria and whether or not the United States should become militarily involved.
Syria is a hot-button issue with a variety of opinions about how the United States should proceed. However, aside from that debate it is important to keep in mind what role the discussions surrounding Syria have on the larger-scale issue of the country’s current financial situation. Just last year, essentially all federally funded operations were dealt a significant financial blow via the funding cuts associated with sequestration. Investing resources in the Syria conflict could drastically alter the federal government’s fiscal dynamics.
More specifically, sequestration has pitted military and defense activities against domestic, non-defense programming (includes workforce development, education, and youth development activities), with a great argument over the cuts attributed to each. With sequestration existing as a zero-sum scenario (decreasing the cuts to defense would conversely cause an increase in cuts to non-defense programming), the current discussions regarding Syria could throw a wrench into an already polarized debate about the allocation of federal resources.
Whether or not the United States actually takes military action in Syria, the whole situation seems to provide more credence to the argument that defense programming needs more funding. On its own, that stance sounds fair, but within the contemporary fiscal climate surrounding the federal government, every decision inevitably has an impact on other activities. With federal programming that focuses on education, development, and job training for youth and young adults in financial jeopardy, any sudden changes (without considering the ramifications or collateral damage) could be crippling.
Regardless of political leanings, the idea that everything is connected to everything else must be acknowledged by everyone. It is unfortunate that a particular issue can no longer be judged independently on its own merits, but this is the world that we now live in.