Adm. Hyman G. Rickover (ret.) brought his contrary comments and sage wisdom to a luncheon this week sponsored by the Center for Defense Information, an independent research group that analyzes military spending and policy.
''Unfortunately, peace requires strength, and for this we rely on our Defense Department,'' said Admiral Rickover, who admitted he has been frequently outspoken in his criticism of the department. He added that criticism is ''the finest form of loyalty.''
Rickover, who served in the Navy for 64 years, is considered the father of America's nuclear Navy. He encouraged the development of nuclear-powered submarines.
Arguing that the Defense Department is not run efficiently or effectively, he hit at ''excessive organizational layering, overstaffing, transient management, short tours of duty, preoccupation with management systems, cumbersome and lengthy budget-review processes, and other factors'' that result in inefficiency and waste.
In addition to calling for a reduction in organizational levels and assurances of proper training and continuity of personnel, Rickover said the government should remain a ''demanding customer'' and not a ''partner'' to private military contractors.
''These improvements are essential for success, and to assure peace through strength,'' said Rickover. But despite his insistence on a strong military establishment, Rickover reiterated that the United States and the Soviet Union are ''overarmed.''
''I don't see the point in each side continuing to increase'' nuclear weapons when each has the capability to ''destroy the world several times over,'' he said.
Asked if he saw any real prospect for an arms control negotiation if President Reagan were reelected, Rickover replied dryly: ''Just as much as previously.''
He urged his audience to take up the issue of military spending and policy with their congressmen.