We have learned the mistake of military intervention in the internal affairs of another country when our own vital security interests were not directly involved. But we must understand that not every instance of the firm application of power is a potential Vietnam.
Through the mid-1970s, the United States relied on a defense strategy and on force structures devised during the early 1960s -- a time when we enjoyed strategic nuclear superiority and a tactical nuclear monopoly; when Soviet seapower was limited and the Soviet military presence outside Eastern Europe almost non- existent. All that had changed by the time I took office as President.
In the early 1960s, the United States removed its medium-range missiles from Western Europe. We could do this then because there was overwhelming US strategic superiority. But the Soviet Union did not show similar restraint. The accelerating development of their relatively long-range, mobile, multi-war- head SS-20 missile is a major escalation in theater nuclear armaments. With the advent of rough strategic parity, this new missile creates a potentially dangerous weakness in NATO's ability to deter aggression.
In the SALT II negotiations, we carefully protected our freedom to correct this weakness. Now NATO is moving toward strengthening its nuclear weapons to offset actual Soviet deployments. Then, on the basis of strength, we can negotiate with the Warsaw Pact to reduce nuclear weapons in the European theater.
In the area of intercontinental or strategic forces, we also face adverse trends that must be corrected. Improving Soviet air defenses now threaten to make our strategic bombers vulnerable. The cruise missile will be our solution to that problem.
In addition, our land-based Minuteman ICBMs are becoming increasingly vulnerable because of the improved accuracy of the Soviet Union's multiple-warhead missiles. That is why we decided last spring to produce the MX missile.
We are also modernizing our strategic submarine force. The first new Trident submarine has been launched, and the first of our new Trident missiles, with a range of more than 4,000 miles, have already been put to sea.
Nor will we neglect modernizing our conventional forces, though here we must rely heavily on the parallel efforts of our allies, in Asia as well as in Europe. They must bear their proportional share of the increased burdens of the common defense.
Finally, we are moving rapidly to counter- balance the growing ability of the Soviet Union, directly or through surrogates, to use its military power in third-world regions, and we must be prepared to deal with hostile actions against our citizens or our vital interests from others as well.
Our 1981 defense budget and our five-year defense program will meet this need in two ways. The first will be a new fleet of Maritime Pre-positioning Ships that will carry the heavy equipment and supplies for three Marine brigades, and that can be stationed in forward areas where US forces may be needed. With their supplies already near the scene of action, the troops themselves can move in by air. The second innovation will be a new fleet of large cargo aircraft to carry Army tanks and other equipment over intercontinental distances.
We must always remember that no matter how capable or advanced our weapons systems, our military security depends on the abilities, training, and dedication of the people who serve in our armed forces. I am determined to recruit and to retain an ample level of such skilled and experienced military personnel.
To ensure that we press forward vigorously, I will submit for fiscal year 1981 a budget to increase funding authority for defense to more than $157 billion, a real growth of more than five percent over my request for fiscal year 1980. My five-year defense program provides real funding increases that average more than 4 1/2 percent a year. If inflation exceeds the projected rates, I intend to adjust the defense budget as needed, just as was done in 1980.
The defense program I am proposing for the next five years will require some sacrifice -- but sacrifice we can afford. It will not increase at all the percentage of our gross national product devoted to defense, which will remain steady at about five percent.