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Reader: It's time to reevaluate our national defense interests 

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In the wake of news surrounding the administration's plans to establish a "Space Force" branch of the military, it is time to reevaluate our national defense interests. Congress just authorized a $716 billion military budget for the 2019 federal fiscal year, accounting for over 16 percent of total federal spending, in contrast with the roughly 1 percent spent on foreign assistance. In terms of ensuring our national security, these numbers show a clear misallocation of resources.

According to a 2008 survey by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC), 84 percent of military officers have voiced that diplomacy and development efforts "should be at least equal to strengthening military efforts," as investments and non-military tools of development foster economic and political stability on a global scale. Foreign assistance fights the spread of poverty, disease and terrorism. Secretary of Defense James Mattis advocates for greater aid spending, adding "If you don't fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition."

With this in mind, I urge Sen. Cory Gardner and Sen. Michael Bennet to protect the International Affairs Budget, and to co-sponsor the Protecting Girls' Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act (S-1580), which seeks to improve coordination and intensify the impact of programs to support the education of women and girls in foreign assistance programs. Prioritizing foreign aid, especially the education of women and girls, is not simply an act of benevolence, but indirectly curbs the terrorist threat and reduces the need for a heavy military presence.

— Heidi Harris, Borgen Project Ambassador, Colorado Springs

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