By Chelsea Miller
As a rising college senior, I did as most students seeking experience do during their summers—I took an internship. I joined thousands of other young people from across the United States to intern in our nation’s capital. A Colorado resident and University of Colorado Buffalo student, I am saddened to miss the Fourth of July holiday in the west for the first time in more than fifteen years. But, as the holiday approaches in DC, I have realized a certain appreciation for both my individual independence and my country’s independence.
I can feel the patriotism and the American pride in Washington, especially as Independence Day approaches. I have grown an appreciation for our troops and our nation’s security more than I ever have before. But, as this holiday approaches, I also have grown a sense of false security in our nation’s leadership to protect the things I love most, like my mountain state home. I am proud to be an American, and I am also proud to be a Coloradan this Fourth of July.
As Congress continues to lack the ability to truly work together, to compromise, and to agree on common sense budget solutions, sequestration has taken effect. And it’s impacting Colorado. Sequestration is a procedure to impose across-the-board cuts, and many believe that the Pentagon should be immune to such cuts. Our country’s leadership, like the U.S. House of Representatives for example, is spending more for the Pentagon. This spending ignores sequester budget caps in law, and at the same time forces even deeper cuts on all other federal budget priorities. The result will be deeper cuts to resources and investments needed in Colorado and other states.
As the White House released several months ago in their report titled “Impact of March 1st Cuts on Middle Class Families, Jobs and Economic Security: Colorado”, Colorado will see cuts to most sectors this year alone. Resources I care about, like education, work-study jobs, protections for clean air and clean water, public health, and the STOP Violence Against Women Program, will be reduced immensely.
Colorado summers, especially around early July, are infamous for their dry and hot weather. Already this summer, there have been major devastating forest fires throughout the state. This was a particularly bad year to cut back on firefighters and equipment, but that is the impact of sequestration. Unfortunately, the Forest Service has had to cut 500 firefighters and 50 fire engines.
Meanwhile the Pentagon budget that takes up more than half of discretionary spending that Congress appropriates each year continues to spend money on expensive weapons systems ─many with amazing delays, cost over-runs and questionable utility for the 21st Century. For example, we will spend $600-700 billion over the next decade on a large nuclear weapons arsenal even though the Cold War ended decades ago. In addition, the government, both Congress and the Administration, continues to fund the poster-child for bad procurement procedures, cost over-runs, and delays; the F-35 Fighter Jet. Nearly all of the capabilities that were supposed to make the plane “next-generation” have yet to actually work correctly, but money has continuously been thrown at the program and at Lockheed Martin, the contractor building the planes. Perhaps the most disturbing is that the Pentagon cannot even conduct an audit to tell Congress and the American public where all the tax dollars are going.
My country will celebrate its independence this Fourth of July, and I will celebrate my newfound independence in a new city. But, as many rejoice, budgets will be cut and programs will struggle to exist. Sequestration will continue to take its toll, and many states, like Colorado, will be left behind. This may not be the kind of independence celebrated in a country “united as one”.
Excessive weapons systems, programs, and waste at the Pentagon must be cut so that all states, my home included, may receive much-needed federal investment and support. In the end, it’s our duty to protect the land we love. As an American and as a Coloradan, I will support the programs that give true security to all residents of this great nation. As an intern in DC, I have learned that security doesn’t have to come in the form of a bomb. Whether from forest fires or weak leadership, we must protect our homes, our programs, and our budget from further destruction.
-Chelsea Miller is interning at WAND this summer. She is a student at the University of Colorado.