It may come to be called "the Carter Five- Year Rearmament Plan." Even before the Soviet aggression in South Asia last month, US Defense Secretary Harold Brown says, the administration badly needed a long-term defense program to meet what he and US inteligence reports refer to as "a steady and sustained Soviet military buildup."
The new and imminent threat to the Western world's oil source in the Persian Gulf since the Soviet move into Afghanistan more than justifies the new US five-year defense plan, in Dr. Brown's view. This year, the Defense Secretary told Pentagon newsmen, the US will concentrate on improving "capabilities to get personnel and equipment quickly to potential trouble areas, like the Middle East , Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea Area." A 26-ship naval task force now including three aircraft carriers (soon to be two) has been cruising there since the Iranian and Afghan crises developed late last year.
Dr. Brown asked Congres Jan. 28 to approve a fiscal 1981 defense budget showing real growth of 5.4 percent over fiscal 1980, which began last Oct. 1.
After that, if the Pentagon's proposals are accepted by Congress, there would be further real growth of about 4.6 percent each year in terms of defense spending through 1986.
Outlays -- actual money spent each year, as distinct from what Congress authorizes -- would jump from $127.2 billion increase in real terms. By fiscal year 1985, outlays are supposed to reach $224.8 billion.
Total obligational authority (TOA), usually far ahead of outlays, is to increase in fiscal 1981 from $119.4 billion to $158.7 billion. After allowing for needed pay increases and price rises, the Pentagon expects TOA to be $248.9 billion at the end of five years.Rising fuel costs this year are to be met from a request for a 1980 budget supplement of $4.2 billion.
The 1981 budget contains two urgent new programs needed to speed US forces swiftly to the Middle East or other trouble spots outside the NATO area: a five-year program to provide 15 "pre-positioned" floating bases (the T-AKX ship) for about three Marine Corps brigades and their equipment, and a new long-range CX transport plane now under study by the Air Force.
Procurement of the KC-10 long-range tanker aircraft for midair refueling, and money to improve the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (civil aircraft usable by the military in an emergency) are in the new budget.
To carry out President Carter's promised increase in the number of Navy ships to 550 within five years, 17 new ships and two conversions are included in fiscal 1981. They include the ninth Trident nuclear strategic missile submarine , and additional SSN-688 class nuclear attack submarine, the third and fourth AEGIS CG-47 class cruisers and four additional FFG-7 patrol frigates.
Secretary Brown said 12 of the Navy's 13 carriers will be kept at sea -- with the USS Saratoga due for overhaul. A new nuclear- powered carrier was authorized in 1980.
The Air Force is to get more F-16, F-18, KC-10 tankers, and TR-1 high-altitude spy aircraft (succeeding the old U-2). According to Air Force Secretary Hans Mark, work is under way to develop a new high-altitude strategic bomber with an 8,000-mile range, longer than that of the old B-52.
Missile procurement funding for the Air Force is up about 28 percent in 1981. Major boosts are in Minuteman improvements, production of the air-launched cruise missile (still being tested in competition between the Boeing Company and General Dynamics Corporation), and more satellites and equipment for the US space shuttle.
For the Army there are funds for quantity production of a Copperhead guided artilley shell, the Sparrow 7 missile, the HARM antiradiation missile, the Patriot Air-defense missile, and a new rocket-support system. The Chrysler XM-1 tank and related fighting vehicles are entering production short and will get additional funds in 1981.
To meet any sudden emergency, there is increased stress on building a "war reserve" of spare parts ($2.3 billion in 1981 -- 25 percent more than in 1980), Secretary Brown said.
Research is being pushed on anti-scale satellite systems that the Soviets have developed and may be deploying (despite inconclusive talks to limit these weapons).
Dr. Brown said better operations and maintenance are being demanded "by local commanders at the platoon, battalion, and division levels." These demands will be met, he said.
The strength of the active armed forces is to increase by 14,000 men and women -- to 2,059,100 -- in fiscal 1981, with main force structure changes in the Navy and Air Force. About $160 million more will be spent to bring up the total reserve strength levels by 36,000 in fiscal 1981.
To encourage enlistments in the all-volunteer forces and keep personnel in the service, the Pentagon is requesting funds to keep enlistment and reenlistment bonuses and to improve base housing.