The Carter administration is scrambling to counter the effects of a film produced by the American Security Council (ASC) that insists the United States is militarily inferior to the Soviet Union.
A government team including representatives of the US Defense Department, the joint chiefs of staff, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has drawn up a detailed rebuttal to allegations made by the ASC's film, which is being distributed to TV stations around the country.
In a report obtained by the moderate Center for Defense Information (CDI), the interagency team declares that the charges made in the ASC's latest film, "The SALT Syndrome," are based on "misleading statistics" and "rhetorical nonsense." The United States, it asserts, "is not at a strategic disadvantage to the Soviets."
In the CDI's opinion, the charges made are "so grossly inaccurate that the Pentagon felt compelled to respond." The rebuttal was passed to Sen. George McGovern (D) of South Dakota and Rep. Thomas Downey (D)of New York, who read it into the Congressional Record and later furnished the CDI with copies.
Concerned that allegations of US military weakness have become central to election year politics, the CDI has published the report, appending its own commentary "to permit those interested in military matters to assess the credibility of the charges and rebuttals."
One of the more than 50 allegations in the film is that President Carter canceled the B-1 bomber, which was to have replaced "our obsolete B-52 bombers." But the interagency team, which also included members of the National Security Council, the State Department, and US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, retorts that as an alternative to the B-1, President Carter accelarated the development of the air-launched cruise missile (ALCM).
The report also denies the obsolescence of the US B-52 strategic bomber, a charge levied in the film. "While the aircraft design is relatively old, the weapons and avionics of the B- 52 are quite modern and are being further improved," it states, asserting that the bombers "will continue to be effective launch platforms for cruise missiles into the 1990s."
"The SALT Syndrome" also claims that the number of US strategic missiles "was frozen at the 1967 level." But the report counters that a shift from quantitative to qualitative improvements in strategic forces and the consequent introduction of multiple warheads or MIRVs "accounts for the fact that since 1967 the total number of warheads in the US inventory has more than doubled."
To the assertion that the Soviet Union possesses a 6-to-1 advantages over the US in missile firepower because of the larger size of its missiles, the report insists that there are more important indexes of strategic military capability than simple megatonnage. "For example," it declares, "the US has nearly twice as many nuclear weapons on its total force of ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles], SLBMs [submarine-launched ballistic missiles], and strategic bombers than does the USSR."
Observes retired Rear Adm. Gene LaRocque, the CDI's director, "Comparing the size of US and Soviet missiles is like comparing the size of our calculators, bigger doesn't mean better. We build our missiles smaller because our technology is more advanced. Our ICBMs have miniaturized, computerized guidance packages, more efficient rocket engines, thinner but more effective heat shields , greater accuracy, and more compact, efficient hydrogen weapons."
Turning to naval forces, the ASC film alleges that the Soviet Union enjoys a 3-to-1 advantage over the US in attack submarines.
"True in terms of the number of ships," responds the report, "but our attack submarine force is vastly more capable than the Soviet force, which relies more heavily on diesel subs. The overall US anti-submarine warfare [ASW] capability is far ahead of Soviet ASW."
To the ASC charge that when all types of active combat ships are counted, the Soviet numerical advantage is almost 5 to 1, the government team retorts: "The absurd practice of counting all ships . . . as equal conceals major force differences. For example the US has 13 heavy aircraft carriers; the Soviets have two light aircraft carriers, which are equipped with less capable aircraft."
"The SALT Syndrome" takes the administration to task over the, as yet, unratified SALT II agreement. Lt. Gen. Daniel O. Graham, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, branded it "lopsided" during an appearance in the film.
Predictably, the report rejects the view. "SALT II, when combined with current US modernization programs, will allow the US sufficient retaliatory forces to carry out its strategic missions," it declares.
To ASC spokesman Rick Sellers, the interagency report is "basically a gross propaganda effort by the administration to sell the SALT II treaty." He regards the report as an "attack" on a private, educational foundation, "using the combined resources of all the major departments of government to do so."
The CDI, he says, "is one of the most liberal organizations in the country that's been against every defense expenditure and program that has come up before Congress."