The Environment and National Security
By James Morrison

[Note: This is a re-formatted manuscript that was originally published in On the Horizon, 1992, 1(1), 7. It is posted here with permission from Jossey Bass Publishers.]

Senator Sam Nunn, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has proposed a shift in defense and intelligence resources to address environmental concerns in the creation of a Strategic Environmental Research Program. One purpose of this proposal is to retain research and technological capacity for the military establishment at a time when military budgets are shrinking. The major purpose, according to Nunn, however, is environmental. While many traditional security problems remain for the U.S., a new threat to our national security is the destruction of the environment. Nunn believes that many resources can be used for military and environmental purposes simultaneously. Aircraft and ships on military maneuvers, for example, could also collect environmental data. [Shabecoff, P. (1990, June 29). Senator urges military resources be turned to environmental battle. The New York Times, pp. A1, A12.]


Does Nunn's proposal signal a fundamental shift in the funding of national defense research? Universities receiving national defense research funding should broaden their perspective to identify social benefits of their research beyond national defense. Such activity may stimulate the establishment of new coalitions, both within and outside the university, to identify and expand the applicability of national defense research. Proactive institutions will provide forums to facilitate the establishment of new coalitions in these areas.