There is a clear answer to those punishing federal deficits and high interest rates: drastic cutbacks in outyear defense increases. To voice this is to be unpatriotic. Certainly we all want strong defenses. But is more defense really being obtained?
Inflated military budgets encourage the Pentagon to design and buy ever more complex and questionable weapons. We all know the amusing story of aircraft becoming so costly the Air Force can buy but one per year. We all know too the wasteful infighting among the services.
Now the military chiefs themselves are calling for reform of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Implicit is that the present system leads to poor planning and poor use of resources. The first was apparent on the desert of Iran. The second is apparent in the Navy seeking more carriers for a task which could be done on the cheap by retrofitting B-52s for a long-range maritime air force.
Waste in the military is pervasive. NATO outspends the Warsaw Pact by 10 percent when measured in dollars and at least 25 percent when measured in rubles (CIA estimates). NATO has equal numbers under arms in peacetime. In Central Europe, in the Mutual Balanced Force Reductions guidelines area plus France, NATO actually has 200,000 more personnel in its air and ground forces.
Yet with less strength, the Warsaw Pact has three times the combat numbers and equipment.
NATO is simply being out-organized. The US Army requires three times more men to field a division than the Soviet Army. The US Air Force requires four times the men per combat aircraft than the Swedish and Israeli air forces.
For that matter, the Air National Guard is three times more cost-effective than the active Air Force. With this type of structural waste, is there any wonder the US gets so little bang for the buck?
The administration's defense program does not address these issues. In 1987, the US will be no better off militarily than today. We still lose in NATO, Korea , and the Gulf. At sea, we may have two additional carrier groups and we may sink the Soviet surface fleet more quickly. Little else will have changed.
Our carriers remain vulnerable to antiship missiles and the carriers remain only marginally useful in other missions vis a vis the USSR. Where the carriers are most useful in force projection, only a few are needed at any one time. (Yes , the British needed big carriers in the Falklands. Two would have done nicely, thank you.)
The conclusion is inescapable. America's defense is costly but ineffective. For what we are paying now, we could in fact be obtaining (conventional) military superiority in Europe, Korea, and the Gulf. Similarly, at less cost, we could attain more relevant capabilities at sea.
The NATO imbalance has always been in ground forces. The US does not have the requisite divisions. Even if it did, only a few could be stationed permanently in Europe. Most could never arrive in time to be relevant.
Worse, the very attempt to do so allows the Europeans to opt out of their responsibilities. They have the resources to defend themselves. They even have the trained manpower in their reserves. But they have never organized them into divisions; nor bought the equipment for them (as they have done in the past).
The Europeans could triple their divisions at a steady state cost of $9 billion per year, which is a 15 percent increase in continental defense budgets. Alternatively, the money could be obtained by reducing continental air and naval forces by one-third. A 400-plane reduction could be readily replaced from the pool of 3,500 aircraft the US does not deploy to Europe in a NATO conflict.
In this manner NATO could at no additional cost nearly triple its divisions (in the same manner as the Russians) while holding air power constant and eliminating the need for early reinforcement across the North Atlantic.
In Korea the deficiency is purely due to the design of the defense. Every European army learned in World War I that forces on forward slopes of hills will be smashed by an opponent having heavy artillery. Nor in mountainous terrain is a cordon (linear) defense feasible without strong reserves. These are not available until after mobilization. In the interim, holes can be smashed in South Korean defenses and light infantry passed through to collapse the defense while North Korean main forces move up and their tanks preempt further organized resistance. The US and South Korean military have still not absorbed the lessons of the Korean War - though excellent foreign discourses exist.
For the Rapid Deployment Force and the Persian Gulf, the deficiency is again the design of American forces. We are using standard infantry when specialized light infantry is required. Standard infantry was designed for warfare in the open flatlands. Its use in mountainous terrain (e.g., Italy in World War II and Korea) has been limited and distinctly inauspicious.
Yet there is a much-tested method of combat in mountains. Adoption of widely used foreign tactics (e.g., British tactics in the Falklands and Israeli para infantry) would allow the US to defeat a Soviet invasion through Iran at a third of the size now being projected precisely because Soviet forces are so tank heavy.
It is these practices - there are many more - that explain the high cost and low effectiveness of Western military forces, US forces in particular. More money is not needed. Different practices and strategies are needed. Present military practices are bankrupt. For these should we now bankrupt our economies as well?
The present course ensures neither defense nor economic recovery. President Reagan's announcement of true military reform would lead to the biggest Wall Street rally ever!