Mr. Adelman should read before he writes
AS a Democratic hawk, and the original author of legislation to establish an Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), I wish to respond to ACDA Director Kenneth Adelman's recent opinion piece, ``Congressional Muddle on Arms Control,'' which ran in the Monitor Sept. 11. I agree with Mr. Adelman's general comments about arms control. He wisely noted that ``arms control can't be achieved by American concessions unmatched by Soviet restraint,'' and that agreements must ``contribute to, and not detract from, United States national security.'' No problem. So far.
I disagree, however, with his declaration that ``the House has approved a defense authorization bill which, if passed in its existing form, would undercut our security and our negotiating position.''
Could his staff have erred? Is it possible he was given the wrong legislation to review? I ask these questions because the bill Adelman critiques and the bill I voted for are two very different documents indeed.
Let's review the five provisions of the House bill which Adelman contends undercut both our security and the arms talks.
Adelman claims the House bill forces the US ``to subscribe, in effect, to a nuclear testing moratorium that the Soviet Union has been promoting for propaganda purposes.'' That is simply not the case.
The Soviets propose a complete, permanent ban on all nuclear testing. Characteristically, they do not mention specific verification procedures.
The House bill is quite different. It states that the US will not conduct a nuclear test of greater than 1 kiloton yield for one calendar year, unless the President certifies that the Soviets have either violated the moratorium or have refused to follow on-site verification procedures to ensure mutual compliance. Rather than being a unilateral concession to Soviet demands, the House bill calls their bluff. Did Adelman read the bill?
The ACDA director believes that ``slashing funds necessary for the Strategic Defense Initiative'' makes us less secure and weakens our negotiating position. That was neither the intention nor the effect of the amendment I offered, and which the House passed by 63 votes.
First, let's set the record straight. The House voted to fund the SDI program at last year's level, plus 3.5 percent for inflation. Thus, we did not cut SDI per se.
The 75 percent increase in SDI funding sought by the President would have made SDI our top defense priority. It is not. Our strategic forces are manifestly redundant. Our conventional forces, meanwhile, are perilously deficient. A bipartisan majority of the House agreed with that assessment. Not even a majority of the House Republicans supported the President's request!
Adelman told Monitor readers that the House required the US to comply unilaterally with an unratified arms agreement -- SALT II -- while the Soviets are violating that accord. Not true.
The House did require that the US not exceed the SALT II numerical limits on strategic weapons, as long as the Soviets do not exceed them. The Soviets are not now violating those numerical limits, nor have they in the past. Breaking out of those limits is not in our interest, as the Soviets are far better prepared to rapidly expand their offensive arsenal than are we.
The Soviets have violated other provisions of the SALT II agreement, provisions with which the House did not require US compliance. In fact, the Congress has repeatedly sought to accelerate the Midgetman missile program. Midgetman deployment would be a proportional response to the Soviet deployment of the SS-25, an apparent violation of SALT II. It is Adelman's employers, not the Congress, who have slowed Midgetman and rejected my proposed response to Soviet violations (see my opinion piece, ``The SALT II dilemma -- a third option'' in the April 21 Monitor).
Adelman next wrote that the House undermined US security by ``forbidding testing of a US antisatellite weapon needed to provide a deterrent against an already existing and operational Soviet ASAT.''
The House did forbid such testing. However, we enhanced rather than undermined our security. You see, Adelman failed to mention that if the Soviets conduct an ASAT test, the restriction is lifted.
We are far more dependent on military satellites than the Soviets are. Thus, if neither side has an effective ASAT, we come out ahead. The existing Soviet ASAT is relatively primitive, and we can develop effective countermeasures to it as long as they do not test new ASAT technologies. If their ASAT is rendered ineffective, we don't need one as a deterrent. That is why the House again voted to forbid ASAT testing as long as the Soviets do not test.
Finally, Adelman lamented the House rejection of funds for new chemical weapons, which he believes are ``necessary to restore the waning credibility of our deteriorating chemical deterrent.'' I agree. New chemical weapons are needed. But he left much unsaid.
I have supported the production of new chemical weapons for years. This year, however, I cast the deciding vote against the President's request. I did so because, believe it or not, President Reagan agreed last spring to withdraw unilaterally all US chemical weapons from Europe in exchange for West German support of American chemical weapon production.
Why should we spend several billion dollars on new chemical weapons if they cannot be deployed where they will actively deter Soviet first use? The House bill prohibits the withdrawal of existing US chemical arms from Europe until agreement is reached to replace them with new binary chemical weapons and holds hostage the new chemical weapons funds.
Despite Mr. Adelman's claims, the House of Representatives did not systematically undermine our strength or our negotiating position. I have two suggestions for the ACDA director. Read before you write and practice what you preach: ``. . . let's not play politics with national security and arms control.''
US Rep. Charles E. Bennett is a Democrat from Florida.