Monday, December 17, 2012

Broken Promise

How will America keep its children safe?

by Stephanie and Eric Stradford

AMWS, December 17, 2012, Atlanta – Twenty more American children are being mourned this week. They and six of their teachers were slain Friday by a lone gunman. They were at “school” getting set for another day of learning in Newtown, Connecticut. To our public knowledge, no official has described Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School as an act of terror. No homeland security breach has been logged. No national security threat has been alleged.

Before Newtown, before Sanford, before Virginia Tech, before Columbine, before 9-11-2001, America promised safe places to learn. But America’s Promise of a safe place to learn is today another promise broken.

The President of the United States came to offer the “love and prayers” of a nation. “Our world too has been torn apart; that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you…we've pulled our children tight,” said President Obama. “Whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide; whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown -- you are not alone.”

The president’s on-site assessment of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School gave measure to a certain reality about raising 21st Century America. “With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves -- our child -- is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice. And every parent knows there is nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm,” he said. “This job of keeping our children safe, and teaching them well, is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community, and the help of a nation.”

A veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces is perhaps among the most frustrated of American citizens. They know that something can be done. Since 2001, about 2,000 American service men and women have died in Afghanistan; in that same time period, 5,000 people have died in Chicago.

The biggest problem returning veterans face has been finding believers, or converting unbelievers before they themselves lose it. Too many Americans see raising American children as a job. We outsource the solution as “students” to teachers in 19th century environments labeled as “schools.” But raising America, like raising the stars and stripes, is an investment in social enterprise.

In this economy that child is the GNP. Any threat on his or her life is a national security breach. Sustaining children through their holistic development answers the call for change in the business of educating a generation of lifelong learners.

Let’s face it! Tops down government can’t even fund a kept promise. So, what if we were to try a bottoms-up faith-based approach? We’ve been doing that since Jesus came and have still not fully embraced the possibilities. So, what about this new strategy? Have the wealthy pay more in taxes, engage the poor with a hand up, and restore America from the middle out.

The “measure of comfort” promised by the president to a grieving nation perhaps answers the “what can be done?” question. The national debate is now shifting from fiscal cliff to how we spend less to get more out of the American people. There is no shortage of resources for keeping children safe in America. But for one day, in just a few minutes, America was attacked…again. Don’t blame the first responders. Don’t blame the politicians. Don’t blame the teachers, the parents, the school bus drivers. And, don’t blame God!

Blame terror. Once the dust clears, history almost always reveals both problem and a pathway to one or more solutions. When terrorists struck on September 11, 2001, America responded with a whole new tops-down strategy.

The federal government has since spent more than half a trillion dollars on homeland security—that is, activities that detect, deter, protect against, and respond to terrorist acts occurring within the United States and its territories. The President’s request of $68.9 billion to fund the Department of Homeland Security is 1.3 percent more than the amount provided for 2012. Every cabinet-level department receives homeland security funding, with the lion’s share allocated to:

  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS—$35.5 billion, or 52 percent of the total homeland security request);
  • Department of Defense (DoD—$17.9 billion, or 26 percent);
  • Department of Health and Human Services (HHS—$4.1 billion or 6 percent); and
  • Department of Justice (DOJ—$4.0 billion or 6 percent).

The U.S. Department of Education currently administers a budget of $68.1 billion in discretionary appropriations (including discretionary Pell Grant funding) and operates programs that touch on every area and level of education. The Department's elementary and secondary programs annually serve nearly 16,000 school districts and approximately 49 million students attending more than 98,000 public schools and 28,000 private schools. Department programs also provide grant, loan, and work-study assistance to more than 15 million postsecondary students.

Homeland security is an umbrella term for security efforts to protect states against terrorist activity. Specifically, it is a concerted national effort to prevent terrorist attacks within the U.S., reduce United State’s vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the damage and recover from attacks that do occur.

National security is the requirement to maintain the survival of the state through the use of economic power, diplomacy, power projection and political power. The concept developed mostly in the United States of America after World War II. Initially focusing on military might, it now encompasses a broad range of facets, all of which impinge on the non military or economic security of the nation and the values espoused by the national society.

To possess national security, a nation needs to possess economic security, energy security, environmental security, etc. Security threats involve not only conventional foes such as other nation-states but also non-state actors such as violent non-state actors, and lone gunmen. Known measures to ensure national security include:

  • using diplomacy to rally allies and isolate threats
  • marshaling economic power to facilitate or compel cooperation
  • maintaining effective armed forces
  • implementing civil defense and emergency preparedness measures (including anti-terrorism legislation)
  • ensuring the resilience and redundancy of critical infrastructure
  • using intelligence services to detect and defeat or avoid threats and espionage, and to protect classified information
  • using counterintelligence services or secret police to protect the nation from internal threats

At what point will measures of comfort, both known and unknown be applied to protecting America’s Future? At what point can America’s future value America’s Promise?