Iraq and the Pathologies of Primacy
The Flawed Logic That Produced the War Is Alive and Well
Nineteen sixty-nine may be remembered as the year Americans woke up to the importance of an issue that was to be a dominant one in the 1970s. The question of Viet Nam still had the emotional clout. The great ABM debate still captured most of the headlines. But more and more people were beginning to see that bigger and more permanent than both of these was the question of whether America's military spending could be brought under more rational control. In the winter of 1969 it became increasingly clear that we had to find a way to reorient our national priorities so that imperative human needs on the home front were not always being shunted aside because of the claims of "national security." No longer could it be successfully argued that we could afford the needed amounts of "guns and butter." A difficult choice-or at least choices-had to be made, and would have to be made repeatedly, for many years to come.
The issue of military spending is more than just newly discerned ; it is in fact new in its dimensions. For the first time in history, each of two great antagonists has the power to destroy the other and security depends almost entirely on the gruesome theory of "mutually assured destruction." At the same time, the satisfaction of basic human needs has become more of an imperative than ever before if we are to survive as a society, because today for the first time those needs can be met and the people, including the poor, know it.
Until World War II Americans generally had been suspicious of "standing armies" and had been inclined to keep the armed forces on meager rations, except in time of actual war. Even the experience of World War II itself did not change this feeling. Right after V-J Day the cry was "Bring the boys home!" and, with a sigh of relief, America demobilized. But, only two years later, with the growing threat from the Soviet Union becoming apparent, with Britain's withdrawal from Greece and the enunciation of the Truman Doctrine, the tide of military spending turned and has been flooding ever since. It surged during the Korean War, subsided briefly, and then continued to mount.
The figures tell a vivid story: in 1948 the defense budget was $11.8 billion; for 1969-70 the budget submitted to Congress was about $80 billion, representing an increase of 680 percent. Allowing for inflation, the increase in constant dollars is 345 percent. This is more than twice the percentage rise in the GNP.
Since 1961, it is true, federal spending for domestic needs has increased faster than defense spending. Programs inaugurated in the progressive 89th Congress, including medicare and medicaid, aid to education and the expanded war on poverty, have made heavy demands on the federal treasury. And, for the years 1963, 1964 and 1965 and again for 1969 and 1970 (estimated) the percentage growth in military spending was actually fractionally smaller than the growth in GNP.
As we look ahead, however, the picture is bleak. Not only are the pressures for a steeper rate of increase in the defense budget intense, but also we are beginning to have a new and clearer conception of the dimensions of our home-front needs. The Kerner Commission report was an electric shock to the conscience of America. By any standard, the amounts required for substantial improvements in our social programs are large: for example, a 35 percent increase in Social Security benefits would cost about $13 billion. An educational assistance program to equalize per-pupil expenditures in all states at the level of New York would cost $19 billion per year. A mass transit improvement program equivalent to half the federal highway aid program would run about $2 billion annually. Everyone wants to move away from the present welfare system, but any move in the direction of a guaranteed minimum income, or negative income tax, is bound to be expensive: for a reasonably comprehensive program, the net cost would be at least $20 billion a year. A federal housing program geared to meet the country's needs is bound to run well into the billions. And so it goes.
For a while it was hoped that, if only the Viet Nam war could be ended, enough resources could be made available to ease the strain. But Charles Schultze, former Budget Director, and others have exploded that myth. Proceeding on the assumption that an end to the Viet Nam war might produce savings of about $20 billion annually after two years, these experts point out that within two to three years after that these savings would be more than wiped out by normal increases in the defense budget, including pay increases and spending on weapons systems already approved. Assuming continued economic growth produces annual increases in federal revenues of $15 billion, Schultze estimates that about half of this will be drained off by built-in increases on the civilian side, so that five years from now we can expect to have only about a $7-$8 billion a year increment to meet the competing demands for (a) the kind of massive domestic programs the Kerner Commission called for, (b) stepped-up demands for military spending, (c) tax relief. Schultze's figures were based on the admittedly arbitrary assumption that tax levels, aside from the surcharge, would remain the same. But the demand for tax relief is intense, as Congressional action this past summer clearly showed. If tax levels are in fact reduced, and if the factors making for military spending are not brought under better control than they have been in the past, the entire "fiscal dividend" could be drained off without leaving any room at all for home-front programs.
The pressures from within the Pentagon for increased expenditures are enormous. They stem in part from traditional and still acute competition among the military services. In part, they are the natural result of increasing technologies; each new generation of weapons means greater complexity and sophistication, and the expense seems to rise by geometric rather than arithmetic progression. Thus, during the Korean War the standard fighter plane, the F86, cost about $300,000; today the standard Navy F4 costs about $3 million, and the Navy wants to move to the F14, estimated to cost some $14 million. The existence of a new technology seems to compel a new weapons system based on that technology; some of my ablest colleagues in the Congress believe that this process is inevitable with respect to MIRV, for example, and cannot be arrested by arms-limitation agreements or in any other way.
To the experts in the Pentagon, the fear of what the other side may be doing is ever present It is natural for the military man to try to achieve absolute security against any contingency that may arise, even though intellectually he may recognize that absolute security is unattainable. He is trained and paid to think this way. Thus the military services will always and inevitably want more than they have. Their appetites are insatiable. And the industrial concerns that are ready and eager to undertake the required contracts will encourage them. In upstate New York, for example, one hears that anybody connected with General Electric is "of course" for the ABM. The effect of all this may be sinister, but the motives are not.
The real trouble comes when those civilians in government who are supposed to see to it that the military's appetite is restrained are not capable of performing that function because they have come to share the military point of view. Although the top civilians in the Pentagon are most exposed to the generals and admirals, it is by no means inevitable that they should be dominated by them. In Robert McNamara the Joint Chiefs of Staff had a tough boss who exercised a great deal of independent judgment, based on extensive and intensive review and analysis carried out by civilians under his control. Secretary Laird, too, has insisted on cutbacks.
Above the Secretary of Defense, the next level of review is that of the President. To exercise this responsibility he must of necessity rely on the Bureau of the Budget. But for years the BOB review of defense requests has not been nearly as tough or effective as it should have been. For one thing, the Bureau has had too few examiners. For another, with regard to the Pentagon, the BOB has not had the authority, as it does in the case of all other departments, to decide on the dollar amounts of the requests going to Congress, subject to an appeal to the President by the department head. For the Department of Defense, the reverse has been true: the Secretary has had the authority to decide on the requests, subject to an appeal to the President by the Budget Director (and McNamara once boasted that he never lost such an argument).
A third limitation on the Budget Bureau, according to former director Schultze, has been that it was too much concerned with details; it did not get into the Pentagon's planning process early enough to raise questions about the fundamental assumptions and strategy which determined the order of magnitude of defense spending. Thus, according to Schultze, there was never sufficient attention or debate within the Executive Branch about the so-called "2½ war" concept underlying U.S. planning, i.e. the assumption that the United States had to be prepared to carry on simultaneously a land war in Europe, a land war in Asia (presumably against Communist China) and a brushfire war elsewhere.
In the past the influence of the BOB, so great in other areas, has been overshadowed in the military area by the Pentagon on the one hand and the Congress on the other. The present Budget Director, Robert P. Mayo, has indicated an inclination to change this. He says, for example, that from now on the appeal procedure will be the same for all departments. And the President has said that he will back Mayo against Laird, if disagreements arise. But it is yet too early to tell how Mayo will fare. Even if he has the full backing of the President, he may run into trouble on Capitol Hill.
All too often, the dominant members of the Congressional committees having responsibility in this area-the Armed Services Committees and Appropriations subcommittees having jurisdiction over defense and "military construction"-come to share the point of view of the military. Chairman Mendel Rivers of the House Armed Services Committee is a conspicuous example. So many defense installations have been located in his district that fears have been expressed that the city of Charleston might sink under their weight. His belief in military solutions to international problems has been well illustrated by his unleash-the-military position on Viet Nam. A sizable majority of his committee tends to share the Chairman's point of view. Civilian DOD officials associated with McNamara and Clifford report that, in hearings before the Rivers committee, they were vigorously challenged to defend, not the size of DOD requests, but the reductions they had made in the requests of the Joint Chiefs. For FY 1967 and 1968, the Committee actually increased the Pentagon's requests for procurement and RDT&E (Research, Development, Test and Evaluation) by a total of $1,325,200,000. At the same time, Rivers and a majority of his associates are conservative and intensely economy-minded when it comes to social problems on the home front.
The makeup of the defense appropriations subcommittees is similar. In both the Senate and the House, the top four Democratic members of the appropriations subcommittees on defense are southern conservatives. Until his appointment as Secretary of Defense, Mr. Laird was a prominent member of the House subcommittee. The Chairman of the House subcommittee on military construction, Mr. Sikes of Florida, was until last year a Major- General in the Reserves and a board member of the National Rifle Association.
Although these committees have held extensive hearings on the Pentagon's requests for authorizations and appropriations, the chairmen typically exercise tight control. Usually the only witnesses called, except for fellow members of Congress, have been from the Pentagon. (In the recent ABM hearings, adverse witnesses were heard at the insistence of anti-ABM committee members, but this was unusual.) Those members of the committees who have chosen to challenge Pentagon requests have had to rely on their own resources to pursue their inquiries effectively. They are not considered a "minority" in the traditional sense (this term applies only to the minority party) and no committee staff is assigned to them.
Once brought before the membership of the Senate or the House, the committee recommendations used to sail through, until 1969, with a minimum of meaningful discussion. The proposals for defense authorizations or appropriations were invariably presented as "essential," never as "desirable," much less as "of marginal value." The committee reports were full of military jargon and rarely related the specific requests to particular policy objectives. As for the hearing records, they were technical, voluminous and suffered from extensive deletions of testimony for reasons of security.
Typically, those few members who sought to raise questions or objections were treated either with scorn as uninformed, or with anger as unpatriotic. There was no debate about the fundamental assumptions underlying the military requests (such as the "2½ war" concept, the existence of which was unknown to most Congressmen until this year) and very little discussion of the pros and cons of proposed force levels or weapons systems. What talk did take place was replete with such clichés as "better too much than too little," "you can't measure lives with dollars," etc.
At no point in the Congressional process was there an opportunity for comparing the domestic needs of the nation with its external needs. Priority for the requirements of national security was assumed, not debated. A double standard was consistently applied: what was said to be needed for survival against dangers from abroad, we would do; what was said to be needed for survival against dangers from within, we would consider.
In spite of the enormous influence of what one liberal Congressman has called the "military-industrial-Congressional complex," we as a nation have the tools to solve the problem of military spending, if we can find the will to use them.
First of all, and fundamentally, the structure of civilian control in the federal establishment was solidly built by the Founding Fathers and stands intact today; the dangers of a military takeover seem remote. Even freshmen Congressmen who cut little swath in the Capitol are sometimes surprised by the deference with which they are treated by bemedaled officers. The deference may be wholly superficial, but it represents a sturdy tradition.
Second, the climate for action to give reality to the principles of civilian supremacy is at least temporarily favorable. The myth of the military's infallibility in matters supposedly within its competence has been thoroughly exploded in Viet Nam, in terms both of consistent over- optimism and of obvious over-reliance on what military power could do. The military have been further embarrassed by the poor planning evident in the Pueblo case, the lack of discretion or foresight, or both, in having nerve gas stored all over the lot, and the just plain bungling displayed in the sinking of a submarine at its dock. Another factor has been the revelation of fantastic overruns in anticipated contract costs, as in the case of the C5A.
The increasing skepticism toward the peremptory demands of the military has been accompanied by a growing realization of the size and urgency of our domestic needs and by a widespread awareness that some hard choices would have to be made. Stimulated by the ABM debates, a number of private organizations have started to focus public attention on the overall problem of military vs. domestic spending. For example, a group of businessmen have formed a Fund for New Priorities in America which sponsored two well- publicized conferences on the subject in Washington, with members of Congress, scientists, economists and others taking part.
Similarly, on Capitol Hill more and more members have been getting educated on the issue of priorities. The Democratic Study Group, comprising the liberal majority of the Democratic House membership, has organized a task force to look simultaneously at foreign policy and defense policy issues, and has arranged seminars and circulated fact sheets on various aspects of the subject. Another informal organization, in this case bipartisan and bicameral, known as Members of Congress for Peace Through Law, has also in 1969 focused for the first time on the military-spending problem: under Senator Hatfield's chairmanship, a subcommittee of the organization has produced and released a series of responsible recommendations for cutbacks in procurement authorizations totaling some $3.1 billion. Even within the Armed Services Committees themselves, substantial minorities are beginning to challenge the military's recommendations on a number of programs.
The close votes on Safeguard in the Senate on August 6 were significant less for the result than for the narrowness of the Administration's victory. The precedent that major new military programs will not go unchallenged was firmly established. Shortly after the ABM vote, Secretary Laird was compelled to accept a restrictive amendment on CBW (Chemical and Biological Warfare) funds, and an amendment authorizing General Accounting Office audit of major Pentagon contracts was also adopted. All concerned were agreed that a kind of uprising was on against the military.
The Pentagon has obviously not been insensitive to these developments. Under pressure from Congressional critics, and influenced also by the need for containing inflationary trends, the Nixon Administration has announced various cutbacks. Some of these represent deferrals of expenditure, but a pet project of the Air Force, the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, long considered by skeptics to be an unnecessary duplication of NASA activities, was cancelled altogether by the Nixon Administration. The controversial Cheyenne helicopter was also dropped.
In August, Secretary Laird announced further economy measures, mostly involving conventional forces. These cuts would reduce spending in FY 1970 by $1.5 billion, over and above the reductions of $1.1 billion announced earlier; and he said an additional cutback of $1.5 billion was on the way. He grumbled at the Congress and warned that the cuts would weaken our "defense readiness," but it was the action that was important.
So the tide that has been flooding so long is at last showing signs of being contained. But sporadic, impetuous and grudging measures will not be enough. An effective and durable flood-control system will be required.
Like others who have addressed this topic, I have often stressed the urgent need for "new priorities." The expression is perhaps acceptable as a shorthand way of saying that in the future we must be less generous toward the military than we have been and less stingy about meeting our home-front needs. But the word "priorities" can be misleading if it implies a system of making budgetary decisions on the basis of constant comparisons between national security needs and domestic needs. Such comparisons must indeed be made, but this can be done only at certain points in the review process and by a few people. Obviously, for example, Defense Department officials cannot be expected to be familiar with specific domestic needs, yet the task of bringing military spending under responsible civilian control must begin in the Pentagon.
What can and should be required of the civilians in the Pentagon is a tough, "show me" attitude toward the requests of the brass, an attitude based on awareness that total security is unattainable but will always be sought by the military, and that federal spending for military purposes must be severely limited in the light of other acute needs. The civilian heads of the DOD should make sure that they are provided with the arguments against military spending proposals, as well as the arguments for.
Secretary McNamara did set up, through an Office of Systems Analysis and extensive use of bright, aggressive civilians, a method of providing for himself an independent, hard-boiled review of the Joint Chiefs' requests. The brass resented the "whiz kids" and reportedly has brought intense pressure on Secretary Laird to rely more on the judgment of the military and to weaken the process of civilian review. The indications are that Laird is giving way to this pressure, both by reducing the authority of civilian offices and by appointing to some key posts men who are even more military-minded than the generals and admirals. (Reflecting the changes in the Pentagon's Office of International Security Affairs, or "little State Department," a current Washington bon mot reports the following exchange: First liberal : "The influence of Pentagon civilians on arms-control decisions has been reduced." Second liberal: "Thank God!")
In recent months a number of former Pentagon officials have expressed their concern about the present trend, drawing upon their experience to illustrate the need for subjecting the requests of the military to searching analysis by truly civilian minds. An illustrative case was the following: in a presentation with regard to relative Soviet and U.S. strength in submarines, the Navy deducted from effective U.S. strength x percent for those vessels that would have to be in home port at any given time. When asked by one of the "whiz kids" what percentage had been deducted from the Soviet strength figure for the same reason, the answer was that no deduction had been made; the incredible excuse was that "we don't know what their lay-up percentage is."
An even more vital reason for civilian analysis, starting within the Pentagon, is that non-military judgments are needed with regard to the probabilities of enemy action, or, to use a controversial word, with regard to the probable intentions of a potential enemy. According to standard military doctrine, the safest course is to assess only the capabilities, not the intentions, of the enemy. Yet the doctrine is not in fact, and cannot be, strictly applied. The whole theory of mutual deterrence rests on the conclusion that the other side's capabilities will not be used if destruction is sure to follow. The degree to which nation A responds to nation B as a threat depends very heavily on A's assessment of B's intentions. For example, not even the most chauvinistic nationalist will argue that the United States should be prepared to cope militarily with a combined attack upon the United States by all the other nations of the world; and Canadian defense planners are hardly likely to look solely at U.S. capabilities in judging whether Canada is safe from a U.S. attack.
In spite of all their stress on capabilities, the generals and the admirals are clearly very much influenced by what they regard as the Soviets' aggressive intentions. But any consideration of Soviet intentions must involve a host of factors-political, psychological, historical, geopolitical, etc.-with respect to which the military may well be less expert than well-trained civilians.
Two major cases in point are the controversies about Safeguard and the MIRV. In these areas, questions such as the following are obviously pertinent: What will be the effect of U.S. decisions on Soviet attitudes toward the SALT talks, and on the likelihood of success of these talks? Is it reasonable to suppose the Soviets want to achieve a first-strike capability against us, or to appear to want to do so (in the light of our probable response)? Obviously, to answer questions such as these, the military have no exclusive expertise, if indeed they have any expertise at all. Hence, they must accept the fact that their civilian boss, the Secretary of Defense, must have the benefit of civilian analysts and advisers.
Before the DOD's requests are submitted to the Congress, the President must also scrutinize the specifics. He, as well as the Congress, should be furnished, not only with the figures, but with full information about underlying assumptions and rationale. The detailed posture statement issued annually by the DOD since McNamara's day is essential for this purpose, and requested expenditures should be precisely related to it. A comparable annual posture statement by the State Department, reviewing U.S. commitments and policies, would be an invaluable supplement. In addition, the President, and eventually the Congress, should be provided with the future financial implications of proposed expenditures. Innocuous research and development acorns have a tendency to grow into giant oaks of weapons systems.
In rendering judgments on all this material, the President, of course, has to rely heavily on his staff. Obviously his adviser on national security affairs can touch only the major problems, such as force levels for the Army5 the size of the Navy and strategic-weapons questions. This puts a heavy burden on the Budget Director and his staff; they cannot be restricted to the traditional question of whether X dollars is too much to spend on Y purpose, but must also be concerned with whether Y is needed at all or whether the job could not be done effectively and at less expense with Z. The Budget Bureau should be instructed to be just as tough in reviewing DOD requests as in the case of all other departments and should be in a position to see that the President does not have to say yes or no to a particular proposal but is presented with alternatives. The President also has available to him, and should use, the National Security Council and its staff. This is another way that expert civilian judgments can be brought to bear.
When the Executive Branch requests finally go to Capitol Hill, they will continue to be examined in the first instance by the Armed Services Committees and Appropriations subcommittees. Ideally, the makeup and the power structure of these committees should be drastically changed so as to make them more representative of, and responsive to, the Congress as a whole. The chairmen should be legislators who are in accord with the main thrust of their party's policies, at home and abroad, as set forth, for example, in the party platform. The membership should reflect, more or less, the same urban-rural and North-South ratios as the House or Senate as a whole. At least a few representatives of ghetto areas should be included. To my mind, the most constructive change of all would be to limit the terms of members on these committees to four or six years, thus avoiding the buddy-buddy relationship toward the military that too often builds up over time.
While admittedly such drastic changes as these are not precisely imminent, they are perfectly feasible. On the House side, for example, the Democratic members, acting in caucus, by majority vote, have ample authority to accomplish these changes with respect to the present chairmen and the Democratic members of the committees. No concurrence by the Senate or by the Republican members of the House would be required. All that is needed is for the majority of the House Democrats to have the will to do what is needed. And if their constituents got angry enough to demand a modification of the strict seniority rule, they would find the will.
Failing such a fundamental revamping, a minimum change-one for which there really should be no opposition-would be to afford basic privileges to the minority voices on these committees, those members who are increasingly demonstrating a healthy skepticism toward the demands of the military. These members need expert staffs if they are to do the kind of probing questioning of DOD witnesses that is required. They also should have the right to arrange for their own witnesses to appear before the committees, thus assuring that points of view other than the Pentagon's are heard. Under most committee rules, such protections as these are usually afforded the members of the minority party. But most Republicans on the defense committees are at least as military-minded as the senior Democrats. Hence, if these committees are to have the benefit of an effective "loyal opposition," party lines must be disregarded.
There is another whole area of activity where the Congress has a major role to play in controlling military spending. This year's revelations of sloppy and wasteful procurement methods by the Pentagon, coupled with attempted concealment of the facts, call for strengthened and systematized Congressional oversight. Individuals like Senator William Proxmire and Congressman William Moorhead have performed yeoman and courageous service, but one gets the feeling that only the top of the iceberg has been revealed. In addition to the Armed Services and Appropriations Committees, the two Government Operations Committees have a major role to play here, and a subcommittee of the Joint Economic Committee has also made a contribution. Highly trained staff is available in the Government Accounting Office, if only the Congress would make more use of them. Too often the redoubtable GAO has been put on the trail only of the relatively piddling over-spending of departments and agencies less powerful than the Pentagon,
The task of assuring a hard-boiled review of military spending requests is a relatively simple one if we have the will to undertake it. The problem of setting up a system of national priorities as between military and home- front requirements is much more difficult, both conceptually and organizationally.
Conceptually, the difficulty stems from the absence of a common standard for measuring relative urgencies. It's a case of apples and oranges. Subjectively, I have no difficulty in concluding that we ought to spend $2 billion in building two hundred community colleges rather than one additional nuclear carrier with appropriate escort vessels. But how does one compare the needs analytically?
Organizationally, the problem of making specific decisions on particular military requests in the light of specific needs in our cities, suburbs or countryside seems insoluble. For one thing the competing demands are virtually unlimited: in deciding whether the defense establishment should not be trimmed of X billion dollars worth of bureaucratic fat (some expert observers regard this as the number one problem), which home-front shortage do you look at-housing, day-care centers, hospitals, subways? For another, most decision-makers, whether in the Executive Branch or the Congress, simply cannot have the expertise in all fields that would permit such multi- faceted judgments to be made.
The best that can be done, I believe, is to compare overall expenditures and to arrive at a reasonable allocation of federal revenues as between military and domestic needs. Although the judgment will necessarily be largely subjective, it should not be made in an arbitrary a priori way; it can be made intelligently only with a basic knowledge of the specific components that make up the request totals on each side of the ledger.
On the Executive Branch side this is clearly a job which only the President, with the assistance of his immediate staff, including the Budget Director, can do. He can turn to his Council of Economic Advisers, particularly with regard to total federal expenditures; he can invite his Cabinet to debate the urgency of competing demands. Some have suggested that he ought to have a special advisery group, possibly a Council on National Priorities, to assist him, but ultimately the decision will be his.
On Capitol Hill, there is today no machinery for reviewing the President's proposed allocation of resources as between defense and home-front needs. Theoretically, the Appropriations Committees could do so, but they function almost entirely through subcommittees with special interests. I believe the best solution would be for the Congress to establish a special joint committee to review, in the first instance, the President's spending requests in terms of the broad allocations to various national purposes. This committee should include members from the various committees concerned so that the competing demands could be intelligently debated. Broad allocations confirming or modifying the President's recommendations would then be communicated to the Members of Congress and the substantive committees. These would not be inflexible but would serve as guidelines, subject to later adjustment. Failing the establishment of a new joint committee for this purpose, the present Joint Economic Committee could undertake the task. That committee, which has an exceptionally able membership and a fine staff, has already been doing extremely useful work in the field of military spending.
To facilitate this kind of Congressional review of overall allocations-or priorities-the President could usefully divide his budget into two parts. One would cover home-front needs. The other would include, not just military expenditures, but also other programs concerned with the nation's responsibilities vis-à-vis the rest of the world-support of the United Nations, foreign aid, the Peace Corps and other international activities. These activities could then be judged in a truer perspective than they are now. Foreign-aid programs, for example, should not have to compete for funds with domestic programs. (One liberal Member of Congress has been saying, understandably: "Not one dime for foreign aid until we start doing what we ought to be doing in the ghettos.") They should rather be judged as against other "external" needs. By a curious twist, the power of the Pentagon could be mobilized in this way for the benefit of international activities that are less popular than straight-out defense programs but are equally essential for national security and the preservation of world peace.
Obviously, there would be problems of classification involved in breaking down the budget into "external" and "internal" sectors, but these would be relatively minor. And the gain in terms of clarity of thinking-seeing the problems in perspective-would be considerable.
What would be a reasonable target for reductions in the FY 1970 and future defense budgets?
Without specifying where the cuts should be made, various groups, such as Walter Reuther's UAW, have suggested $10 billion. Though this is not likely to be achieved, it is not a "wayout" figure. One former Pentagon official, Robert S. Benson, has proposed a number of cuts totaling $9 billion, and a former colleague of his has estimated that $7 billion a year could be saved through improved procurement practices alone. Fortune magazine has listed possible savings amounting to $17 billion by 1972, even assuming deployment of Safeguard and MIRV. Although the cutbacks in procurement proposed by the Hatfield subcommittee of the Peace Through Law group amount to only $3.1 billion, some of them might save very large sums if carried through into later years. For example, indefinite deferral of AMSA (Advanced Manned Strategic Aircraft) would save only $80 million this year, but the eventual saving might well be $10 billion. Similarly, a decision not to deploy Safeguard would have saved about $700 million this year, but the ultimate saving might amount to tens of billions, especially if one assumes that deployment of Safeguard may well lead to larger, more elaborate ABM systems later on.
Other areas which call out for cuts include CBW (Chemical and Biological Warfare) preparations; the beginning of a sophisticated new antiaircraft system, complete with "look-down" radar, designed to cope with a Soviet bomber threat which does not yet exist; development of new aircraft types; and the so-called FDL (fast-deployment logistic ship), which many regard as intended for future Dominican Republic-type incidents. A minimum immediate target, especially in view of Laird's announcement, would be to keep non- Viet Nam expenditures from growing (apart from pay increases and other built-in factors).
For the longer run, achievement of really big savings will require basic decisions involving substantial cutbacks in conventional forces. A reduction of one million, or less than a third, in the number of Americans in uniform would save on the order of $10 billion a year. A decision to abandon the notion that we have to be prepared to fight an extended war at sea with the Soviet Union could save a good part of a projected $30 billion for fleet modernization, plus billions of dollars annually in naval operations and maintenance costs.
It is, in my judgment, literally impossible to overstate the importance of the SALT talks. If restrictions on the deployment of ABM and MIRV can be agreed upon, not only will tens of billions be saved eventually in the construction, procurement and operation of these systems, but the indirect effect is likely to be such a lessening of tensions as to make possible major reductions in conventional forces. If the talks fail, the opposite will be true, and America will continue to be deprived of the better life for all that is now within reach.
Neither in the Executive Branch nor in the Congress does there yet appear to be the sense of overwhelming urgency about the SALT talks that there ought to be. Too often the emphasis is on the difficulties and the risks of arms-limitation agreements, with little or no mention of the calamitous consequences and danger of allowing a new arms race and tension to escalate together.
Until recently Americans generally have been content to let their officials carry the awesome responsibility for making decisions in these areas. Where national security is concerned, John Q. Citizen has tended to say, "Poppa knows best." But there are growing numbers of people, especially among the young and the disadvantaged, who insist on making known their feelings about the road the United States should take. Hopefully, this tendency will spread.