What Constitutes “Adequate” Defense?

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What Constitutes “Adequate” Defense?

by Congressperson Ronald Dellums

‘Science for the People’ Vol. 13, No. 4, July/August 1981, p. 8–9

The new Administration’s budget, formerly submitted to Congress on March 10th, is the most flagrant, systematic assault by government on the economic well-being of America’s middle class, working poor and unemployed in this century.

This Administration has deliberately designed a spending and tax program which benefits the rich, the powerful and the corporate elite. There are no “savings”. The $48.6 billion in cuts from social service programs for the poor, the elderly, the unemployed and the handicapped will be transferred directly to the Pentagon. This is a delibetate escalation of the international arms race, on which this Administration plans to spend a minimum of $1.3 trillion in the next five years.

On March 4th the new Secretary of Defense unveiled the Administration’s military spending plans for the next five years. He hailed them as “the second half of the Administration’s program to revitalize America”. It is nothing less than a conscious commitment to beat our plowshares into swords.

The dollar figures are mind-boggling, but the manner in which they are to be spent is even more frightening. In 1977, when the Carter Administration assumed office with a pledge to reduce military spending by $5-$7 billion in its first year, the total “defense” budget was slightly less than $100 billion. Four years later it was $173 billion, but Mr. Carter left office asking for an increase to $194 billion. The new Administration is determined to accelerate the pace of escalation. For the next fiscal year it wants the Carter request raised to $226.3 billion. By 1986 it projects an annual military budget of $367.5 billion. It proposes to spend a minimum of $1.3 trillion in the next five years on the military function. But, with cost overruns and supplementals, that figure could easily reach $2 trillion. Incredible! Despicable …

Even more ominous is their selection of spending priorities. These include a continuation of the MX missile program, the expansion of the Trident Submarine and Trident II missile program, and updated version of the manned bomber, the construction of another nuclear carrier, the expansion of theater nuclear weapons systems, the creation of rapid deployment strike forces, the possible permanent siting of American ground and air forces in the Middle East and other “hit list” trouble spots around the globe, and the resurrection of World War II naval relics for combat duty, such as the battleships Iowa and New Jersey, and the carrier Oriskany.

That is quite a menu, even given the Pentagon’s insatiable appetite for more – more – more …. However, it is time for the Pentagon planners to confront the realities of the 1980’s, rather than indulge in nostalgia for the 1950’s. The basic reality of the 1980’s is this: the era of “Pax Americana” is past. Neither we nor the Soviet Union can bilaterally, much less unilaterally, control the world. But, we have the power, singly and together, to destroy it—many times over.

The proper military posture for Americans should be the defense of America, not the domination of the world. I support a military budget sufficient to insure our proper and morally legitimate foreign policy objectives. Moral and humane considerations dictate that we oppose the proposed military budget, which is ill-conceived, over-reactive and a “clear and present danger” to the constructive search for world peace.

The present triad of land-based missiles, bombers, and especially submarine-launched missiles ensure, well into the future, a virtually invulnerable capacity to destroy the Soviet Union as a functioning society.

I do support an increase in military pay and benefits as a means of retaining qualified, experienced personnel, particularly among non-commissioned officer ranks and junior officers, in addition to attracting new recruits with the potential for handling today’s complex military technology. I remain unequivocally opposed to the resumption of a peacetime draft in any form.

As a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, I believe it is possible to cut at least $27.4 billion from this year’s military budget, while still preserving a more than adequate defense posture for this nation. In my judgement the triad system can be safely reduced to a diad system, through the elimination of new manned bombers and further construction of nuclear carriers. Even Admiral Stansfield Turner, former Director of the C.I.A., agrees with this assessment. In a recent article he argued against both projects, saying: “The risks to a pilot are unreasonable, and the probability of hitting the target less than with a remotely controlled system … like the manned bomber, the trends of technology are all making the giant aircraft carrier obsolete.”

I have opposed the MX missile program since its inception, because it is the most dangerous and wasteful weapons system yet devised by the Pentagon. The estimated cost of this weapon has already risen from approximately $35 billion to more than $100 billion for the life of the system. The impact of air pollution and land destruction will be enormous, not only in Utah and Nevada, but wherever this weapon would be sited. Worst of all, it is a direct incitement to an even more deadly escalation of the nuclear arms race, because of its “killer first-strike” capabilities.

Many of the same arguments can be made against the futher development of the Trident II Sub missiles and theater nuclear weapons such as the Pershing II and Cruise missiles. In his final report to the Congress, former Defense Secetary Harold Brown inadvertently admitted that the U.S. already has 7000 nuclear warheads deployed throughout Europe. The security of our N.A.T.O. allies will not be enhanced by the introduction of these new weapons. If anything, they will impede the search for nuclear arms limitations and a mutual balanced reduction of forces in Europe.

The stated intention of developing a Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) and resurrecting the World War II naval relics mentioned above are demonstrative evidence that this Administration is seriously contemplating military intervention in the Third World as an integral part of the revived “Crusade against Communism. These proposals should be rejected outright, because they are a moral affront to a nation which proclaims itself as “the leader of the Free World.”

Finally, the General Accounting Office has proposed $4 billion in current program savings, procedures which I support.

At the present time our nation—and the national economy—has much more to fear from the Pentagon “big spenders” than we do from any Soviet threat, imagined or real. The struggle for sanity in our military policy must be waged—and won—if we are to survive as a free society.

Ronald V. Dellums
Member of Congress
8th District, California

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