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.
« 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.