In Focus: The First Biennial Budget

March 1, 1987

Washington, D. C., Feb. 3—The Administra­tion’s defense bud­get request for FY ’88 and FY ’89, sub­mitted to Congress in early January, seeks only modest growth rates of three percent for each of the two years. The funds will not recover the ground lost by a seven percent real decrease in defense spending that Congress imposed in the last two years.

Terming the request “a very modest investment” in national security, De­fense Secretary Caspar Weinberger explicitly warned Congress that “in every corner of the globe, America’s vital interests are threatened by an ever-growing Soviet military threat.” Moscow, he pointed out, “is maintain­ing its unprecedented pace of military expansion and continues using mili­tary might to support its ruthless goals.” In the last decade, he added, “the Soviet Union has outstripped us in almost every meaningful category of military production.”

The Administration’s defense re­quest seeks $303.3 billion in budget authority (BA) for FY ’88—an increase of $21.6 billion over this year’s level—and $323.3 for FY ’89, expressed in current year dollars. The request, in line with Congress’s new DoD Autho­rization Act (PL 99-145), covers two budget years as opposed to the year­-by-year process of the past.

The shift to a biennial approach was hailed by Secretary Weinberger as a harbinger of greater funding and program stability and as a step away from picayune congressional line-item review. The two-year funding re­quest is the “up-front” component of the Administration’s FY ’88-92 de­fense program, which, expressed in current or “then-year” dollars, envi­sions an aggregate budget authority for this five-year period of about $1.722 trillion.

In addition to the funds sought by the Administration for the Pentagon, the Department of Energy’s defense activities—in the main nuclear weap­ons and nuclear materials produc­tion—are pegged at about $8 billion in FY ’88 and at $8.5 billion in FY ’89. Of this total, some $480 million goes toward research and development of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Proposed SDI spending by the Pen­tagon comes to about $5231 billion in FY ’88 and $6.292 billion in the fol­lowing year. SDI, Secretary Wein­berger told Congress, remains the centerpiece of the Administration’s strategic defense efforts.

The central tenet shaping the two-year defense budget remains un­changed from the Administration’s defense policy of the past, as pointed out by Secretary Weinberger: “[We] seek to achieve our objectives not by the use of force but rather by deter­ring an adversary from using his forces against us.” Logic dictates, therefore, that the “calculus” of US deterrence allows a sufficient safety margin for the vagaries in Soviet per­ception of this country’s deterrent power and for the dynamics of mili­tary technology. In turn, US defense planners face the perennial Hobson’s choice “of tradeoffs between invest­ing in today’s capabilities or tomor­row’s possibilities, with all its atten­dant uncertainties, risks, and costs, but with the certain knowledge that the USSR never ceases its massive research, development, and deploy­ment of ever-more modern weapon systems.”

As a counter to the incessant ex­pansion of Soviet military capabili­ties, the new budget stresses the fun­damental concept of “competitive strategies,” which Secretary Wein­berger defined as “aligning enduring American strengths against enduring Soviet weaknesses.” The idea behind the Administration’s competitive strategies philosophy is not totally original, having its roots in the com­monsense notion that US technology efforts should seek to inflict techno­logical obsolescence on the Soviets and thereby offset Moscow’s lead in defense investments.

What is new in the formulation of the competitive strategies concept underlying the President’s five-year defense program is its coupling of the explicit and systematic dedication to this objective with complementary adjustments of operational doctrines. By institutionalizing these strategies, Secretary Weinberger promised, the US will be able to “force the Soviets to perform less efficiently or effectively.” The upshot is that this country en­hances “deterrence by making signif­icant components of the Soviet force structure or their operational plans obsolete.” By extension, the Soviets are forced to make difficult tradeoffs, including “shifting more resources to defensive systems and operations, rather than continuing to structure forces for offensive operations, or they might decide to forgo certain of­fensive forces because of their in­ability to overcome our defensive posture.”

While SDI is obviously a major play­er in the competitive strategies ap­proach, it clearly is not the only one. Equally important points of techno­logical or doctrinal leverage include antisubmarine warfare, low-observ­able air-breathing weapon systems, and the combination of technologies associated with the AirLand Battle and Follow-on Forces Attack (FOFA) doctrines.

In the case of air-breathing strate­gic and tactical weapons, Secretary Weinberger suggested to Congress that “a number of factors makes our penetrating bomber force [an ele­ment] of comparative advantage for the US that needs to be amplified by the new strategies.” First, “geogra­phy favors us, since the US and its allies can launch or support penetra­tion bombing missions from a number of locations around the Sovi­et periphery. Second, the West holds a general advantage over the Soviet Union in aircraft production.”

In addition to the technological lead, “for a number of sociological and cultural reasons, Western air­crews typically display a degree of ini­tiative, innovation, and self-reliance not thus far found” in their Soviet counterparts, he told Congress. Low-observable technologies, in particu­lar, “promise to increase further the competitive advantage of our bomber force to such a degree as to make much of the Soviets’ air defense infrastructure” ineffective or ob­solete.

Citing the Advanced Technology (“Stealth”) Bomber, or ATB, as a case in point, he pointed out that the ob­jective behind this weapon system is “to exploit the historic Soviet concern with homeland defense by utilizing the superior low-observable technol­ogy we can now embody in our air­craft and missiles.” ATB, he sug­gested, will force the Soviets to “make an enormous investment in new defensive systems over a span of many years, while their existing enor­mous investment becomes rapidly obsolete.”

Moreover, ATB will also obsolete the air defenses of the Warsaw Pact countries as well as Soviet client states in the Third World. At the same time, Moscow will not be able to scrap its existing air defense systems be­cause the B-lB and the advanced cruise missile (ACM) “will maintain the effectiveness of our conventional bomber force well into the 1990s.”

In the tactical air warfare arena, the Air Force’s Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) and the Navy’s Advanced Tac­tical Aircraft (ATA) will embody stealth technologies to steal a march on ex­isting Soviet air defenses, Secretary Weinberger told Congress. (The new budget seeks about $1.24 billion over the next two years toward the devel­opment of ATF prototypes. The Navy treats ATA as a “black” program and hence does not publish the associ­ated funding requests.)

ATF’s payoff in terms of the compet­itive strategies concept is that it ought to “render obsolete much of the War­saw Pact’s tactical air defenses, there­by increasing the pressure on the So­viets to build new defensive systems at considerable cost in rubles and time,” according to Secretary Wein­berger. These defensive systems, he suggested, will probably come at the expense of new investments in offen­sive systems. “Rather than engaging the huge Soviet air armies primarily over West European territory, the ATF will permit our air forces to fly deep into enemy territory in the face of ex­tensive Warsaw Pact air defenses and attack Soviet strike and fighter air­craft near their main operating bases,” he explained.

ATA, in similar fashion, is expected to “negate the Soviets’ enormous in­vestment in their fleet and coastal air defenses and the air defenses of mili­tary installations in their Third World proxy states.” Soviet attempts to de­fend against the stealthy ATA would exact high costs and thus divert funds from other programs.

The Army is capitalizing on the competitive strategies concept by putting at risk the Warsaw Pact’s sec­ond-echelon forces, which would thus erode fundamental Soviet the­ater warfare objectives: “Recognizing the Warsaw Pact’s operational re­liance on second-echelon forces, the Army’s AirLand Battle and NATO’s Fol­low-on Forces Attack doctrines were developed to leapfrog the disadvan­tages we face at the front line.”

Terming this country’s ability to ap­ply “smart weapons with precision on an extended battlefield . . . im­pressive,” Secretary Weinberger pre­dicted that the Soviets “will increas­ingly be forced to doubt the potential effectiveness of their ground combat forces and [the] efficacy of their doc­trine for war in Europe.” He envi­sioned a scenario in which any at­tacking Soviet ground forces would be met immediately by an array of “smart” systems employed in a way that maximizes the advantages of such weapons as well as Soviet vul­nerabilities. “In many ways,” he said, “it is the Soviet attacker rather than the NATO defender who will be sur­prised. Further, follow-on Soviet ech­elons would feel the impact of NATO defenses immediately and directly. These new doctrines and weapons, properly funded and supported, will combine to make NATO’s conven­tional deterrent even stronger over time.”

In the Pentagon’s view, there are two specific facets to the competitive strategies concept—the development of new technologies, on the one hand, and the formulation of new concepts of operations, on the other. The latter task is purely “intellectual” and in many instances more “formid­able” than the former, Secretary Weinberger acknowledged. “I intend to have the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commanders in chief of the unified and specified commands determine ways to exploit Soviet vulnerabilities using current systems and to begin work on devel­oping operational concepts that fully exploit the capabilities of our new technologies.”

The Administration is optimistic that this concept can be “institution­alized” and become ingrained in the nation’s defense culture. Toward this end, the civilian and military heads of the services, on a regular basis, are to make recommendations on how weapons development programs un­der their jurisdiction can be integrat­ed into the competitive strategy con­cept. These recommendations will be built into the services’ proposals for new weapon systems, and “those as­pects will be reviewed as part of the new Joint Requirements and Man­agement Board [JRMB] process.”

Central oversight on a day-to-day basis with regard to institutionalizing the competitive strategy rests with the Deputy Secretary of Defense. Con­gressional support of the concept, Secretary Weinberger pleaded, is of pivotal importance. “Working to­gether, we can help the US and our allies develop and field a truly robust deterrent that relies on advanced de­sign, manufacture, and fighting doc­trine, rather than on matching the So­viets tank for tank, ship for ship, or aircraft for aircraft.”

The imperative of doing more with less by means of such high-leverage investments as the competitive strat­egies concept, Secretary Weinberger and other senior Pentagon witnesses told Congress, stems from adverse budget trends and the undiminished growth in the Soviet threat. The cumulative difference between what the Administration planned in 1985 to invest in defense programs for the FY ’85-89 period and the outlay levels now in force is a staggering $293.7 billion.

In spite of these cuts—imposed by a combination of factors that includes congressional cuts, the Gramm-Rud­man-Hollings deficit-reduction legis­lation, and the Administration’s own genuflection to political necessity—the federal deficit problem remains acute. Even though $55 billion was cut from defense outlays in 1985 and 1986, every penny of that “saving,” plus another $31 billion, was spent by Congress on domestic programs or to cover budgetary miscalculations. The portion of the Gross National Product (GNP) going to defense is now con­siderably less than that provided in 1969, but nondefense spending has grown by about one-half of a GNP per­centage point every year since then.

The Soviet Union devotes about two and a half times the percentage of GNP to defense compared to the US level. If the US were to live up to the Soviet spending standard, “we would be submitting a defense budget for 1988 not of $303 billion, but more than $700 billion,” Secretary Wein­berger pointed out. He added that in the aggregate, the weapons the Sovi­ets have bought during the last fifteen years have an estimated dollar cost of roughly $1 trillion, or ‘over thirty per­cent more than the cost of the weap­ons the US bought in the period.”

Strategic Modernization: Fact and Fiction

Because strategic weapon sys­tems—such as the B-1B—need to be brought into the operational invento­ry relatively quickly to help redress Soviet advantages, they occasionally encounter growing pains. This condi­tion is somewhat analogous to the “shakedown cruises” of naval ships that serve to pinpoint and correct start-up glitches. In the case of the B-lB program, a number of initial problems unearthed by the Air Force have received headline treatment in the media.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Larry D. Welch separated fact from fiction concerning the B-lB and other strate­gic force modernization programs during a recent meeting with Pen­tagon reporters. Concerning the B-1B, General Welch pointed out that the aircraft is “performing its intend­ed mission,” met its IOC (initial opera­tional capability) on schedule in 1986, and, at this moment, gives no indica­tion that it will exceed Congress’s $20.5 billion ceiling limit.

“There is,” he emphasized, “noth­ing that needs to be fixed on the air­plane that we don’t know how to fix. . . . The fact is that the aircraft to­day can perform the mission that it needs to perform today against a threat that it has to face today better than any other airplane in the inven­tory.”

Concerning overblown reports about weight growth on the part of the B-113, General Welch explained that the basic airplane weight, “as we measure airplane weight, went up 8,000 pounds. The payload went up another 5u,000 pounds. The fuel load went up 25,000 pounds.” There were no performance penalties that mat­tered, he added.

The performance of the B-1B’s defensive avionics, the Air Force Chief of Staff pointed out, is “somewhere be­tween a year and a half and two years [behind] what we hoped to have at this time.” The problem, he explained, is not a design flaw. “It’s the integration that’s causing the difficulty,” he as­serted. Because of a continually changing threat, electronic counter­measures in general, and defensive avionics in particular, must be modi­fied and updated continually, the Air Force Chief pointed out. Soviet hard­ware changes and new techniques drive these adjustments and create “a never-ending battle.” This cat-and-­mouse game, he stressed, is a fact of life in the ECM field.

The B-113’s flight ceiling of 20,000 feet with a full payload is not, contrary to some media reports, a design shortfall: “We designed it to be a low flyer.” Stressing that the Air Force doesn’t care how high the airplane flies, General Welch said there are only two valid litmus tests: “Can it penetrate at the altitudes and speeds [needed to carry out its mission]? The answer is yes, it can. Can it carry the payload that we designed it to carry to the targets we designed it to go to? The answer is yes, it can.”

Turning to the Advanced Technolo­gy Bomber (ATB) program, General Welch dismissed speculation that the alleged developmental problems of the B-lB presaged major difficulties for the even more sophisticated air­craft. The ATB is proceeding satisfac­torily, “with the normal things you find as you develop a complex airplane.” The aircraft, which has not yet flown, “is markedly more efficient [aerody­namically] than its predecessors” and hence requires less tanker support.

Responding to the allegation that the Air Force supports the Small ICBM (SICBM, or Midgetman) pro­gram merely for political reasons in order to win congressional approval for deployment of the second fifty MX Peacekeepers, General Welch gave the “most convincing [answer] I know…. It’s fully funded in the Air Force budget that the Air Force turned in to DoD and fully funded in the DoD budget that we turned in to Congress.”

He underscored Midgetman’s mili­tary utility by pointing out that strate­gic targets don’t necessarily group themselves so that a ten-warhead missile can be used against them in an effective manner. “There are time-sensitive targets that require some­thing other than a ten-warhead [MX Peacekeeper]. That’s particularly true of the emerging targets, those targets that pop up during execution that you didn’t know were there. . . . The small [ICBMs can] handle that.”

He agreed, however, that in terms of cost per target held at risk, MX is clearly more economical. To date, congressional reaction to the Air Force’s plan to deploy the second fifty MX Peacekeepers in a garrison/rail-­mobile fashion has been “good,” ac­cording to General Welch.

Washington Observations

« The Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the FY ’88 Military Posture statement, dis­closed that the Soviet strategic offen­sive arsenal now boasts a total of 2,837 nuclear delivery vehicles com­prising 2,397 ballistic missiles and 440 nuclear-armed bombers. The cor­responding US total is 1,988 strategic delivery systems, of which 1,646 are missiles and 342 are bombers.

Over the past ten years, the Soviets reduced the erstwhile 3:1 US lead in the total number of nuclear warheads to nearly 1:1, built up a 2:1 lead in prompt hard-target kill capability, and changed the balance in equivalent megatons—generally considered the basic measure of merit in the strategic nuclear equation—to one that is now two-to-one in their favor.

In a separate development, the Pen­tagon reported that the Soviets re­cently completed facilities for addi­tional SS-25 ICBMs and “can now support about 100 SS-25 launchers.” The Soviets have apparently fielded about twenty-eight SS-25s since Sep­tember 30, 1986. The total of SS-25s known to exist then was only seventy-two missiles.

« Asserting that elements of SDI (“Star Wars”) research are proving successful beyond the expectations of its most optimistic supporters, De­fense Secretary Caspar Weinberger suggested recently that “we may be nearing the day when decisions about deployment of the first phase can be made” and “that we now have an unprecedented degree of confi­dence in the feasibility of defense against Soviet missiles.”

In this context, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. William J. Crowe, Jr., cautioned Congress that even if the decision is made immedi­ately to develop such a phase one sys­tem, it could not be fielded before the middle of the 1990s.