The United States is seeking to weave a protective, worldwide network of response to the Soviet threat in southern Asia. Part of this response involves immediate military moves, such as the well- advertised Jan. 21 patrol flights by longrange US Air Force B-52 bombers over vital Western shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean.
Another part is upgrading the few military families the US now can use in this part of the world. New funds in the coming fiscal 1981 defense budget would further develop the air base and port installations on the British island of Diego Garcia, in the mid-Indian Ocean.
If a team from the US State and Defense Departments (now working out details) is successful, American ships and aircraft soon may be able to use facilities in Oman, at the entrance to the Gulf oil reservoir; in Somalia, on the Indian Ocean , and in Kenya -- if the price of supporting these countries against hostile neighbors (in the Somalia-Kenya case, each other) is not too high.
Major US Navy exercises, with allied warships participating in some of them, are under way in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and the eastern Pacific.elements of the future US rapid deployment force, including airborne Army troops and tactical air units, are testing the Panama Canal's defense systems.
Spurred by intelligence reports that Soviet forces in Afghanistan include units with chemical and biological warfare potential, the US Army now plans to request funds for a plant to produce binary chemical weapons and a start on actual production of nerve gas shells in 1981.
Research on lasers and directed particle beams as weapons, bigger and more deadly nuclear warheads, and anti-satellite weapons for future space warface all are expected to have a place in the fiscal 1981 defense budget, soon to be unveiled by Defense Secretary Harold Brown.
In the private Allied Interdependence newsletter of Georgetown University's Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), defense analysts propose that allies planning -- among the US, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand -- now must quickly be extended to solid defense cooperation in every field, including creation of an interallied "common market" for basic defense industries.
"If America's Atlantic and Pacific allies were equitably and collectively sharing the financial burdens of defending Europe, defending the Pacific, and defending the energy lifetimes in between," says the CSIS study, "total allied military expenditures would be 47 percent less than the Warsaw Pact," instead of only slightly greater with the US carrying the main burden.
A limited-circulation Pentagon report by Dr. Ellen L. Frost, a deputy assistant secretary of defense, urges the total pooling of allied defense resources in a "common market for defense equipment."
Dr. Frost's paper says that the allied cooperation now being sought in the areas of weapons systems and use of bases should be extended to areas such as aircraft, missile, and gun manufacturing, where she finds an "unwillingness of the European nations and their governments to assume their proper share of conventional warfare defense preparedness."