My professional career began as a Navy journalist with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the early 1970s. The job probably sounds more impressive than it really was. I had a number of responsibilities that included writing press releases, speaking to high school audiences about NATO, and supporting a briefing team that made presentations throughout the U.S. and Europe. Most of my time was dedicated to the briefing team.
I did everything from writing speeches for admirals to keeping slides of Soviet destroyers up to date. I learned a lot while performing my duties, and the one concept I’ve never forgotten from those briefings is the notion of interdependence. Our talks began with a discussion of how NATO was formed in response to the threat of Soviet aggression in Europe. The U.S. and Western European nations essentially declared that an attack against any of the NATO member nations would be regarded as an attack against them all. The allies then agreed to link their military forces so that they could work together in the event of an attack. NATO was formed with the idea that all the member nations were interdependent for security.
I think interdependence describes much more than security against military attack. I was shocked to learn a few months ago that the human body contains more parasites than it does cells. In other words, there are more of other organisms in our bodies than there is of us. We are packing along millions of little critters every day who rely on us for survival, just as we rely upon them.
Single-cell parasites have a lot to teach us about interdependence with the rest of the world. I’ve heard it said that when the U.S. economy coughs, developing nations get pneumonia. We all know that our economy has more than a cough right now, and people around the world are suffering as a result. Some of that suffering is occurring in Albany as people lose jobs, homes, and financial security. The City is not immune to these problems.
Our citizens depend on us for critical services, and we are dependent on them for the resources to get the job done. Recognizing this interdependence, the City’s management team is actively looking at ways to control costs while minimizing the effects on services. I have appreciated the offer from several employees to forego salary increases in the year ahead to help with this effort. The Department Directors and I have already decided to give up any cost-of-living adjustment for ourselves in Fiscal Year 2010.
We are fortunate not to be in the position of state government agencies or Portland, where significant budget cuts are required this year and even more significant reductions will be necessary next year. Our relatively good fortune is fragile, however; and we face great uncertainty in the coming year. I do not know exactly how serious the situation will be next year, but I believe there is a strong possibility we will be required to make even more significant budget cuts. Anything we do today to reduce expenses will help us in a future where resources are contracting.
I’m feeling pretty good today about the likelihood of a Soviet attack against the United States and Western Europe. NATO’s recognition of its members’ interdependence and the actions that followed from that conclusion apparently worked. Our own acknowledgement that we live in an interdependent world and our willingness to act accordingly may help provide the solutions we need to the challenges now at hand.