The Essential Priorities

Nov. 1, 1985

America’s ability to safeguard peace, liberty, and the pursuit of vital national interests hinges on one central factor: The clear recognition by any potential aggressor that military aggression cannot succeed. We must convince an aggressor that this country’s armed forces — in concert with those of our allies — can thwart his military objectives, can countervail his strategies, and, if necessary, will prevail in war. US deterrence works only if this country’s military forces maintain a quality edge that offsets quantitative and other advantages of our principal adversary, the Soviet Union. Maintaining that crucial quality edge is becoming increasingly difficult. The funds available for advanced technology weapons are limited and finite. The growing costs of these weapons can be accommodated only by rigorous adherence to frugal management standards and prudently set priorities that receive cohesive support from the executive and legislative branches of government.

At the core of the problem is the relentless growth in Soviet military capabilities that reaches across the entire spectrum of strategic, theater-nuclear, and conventional warfare. The Soviet Union devotes about seventeen percent of its Gross National Product to the military sector, compared to about six percent for this country. The USSR’s drive toward expansion and modernization of its military arsenal is marked by the introduction of new, advanced technologies that in some instances are superior to corresponding US capabilities.

In no area is this Soviet drive more intense and more consequential than in the strategic nuclear sector. By the mid-1990s, almost all of Moscow’s currently deployed land- and see-based ballistic missiles and heavy bombers will be replaced by new and improved systems. New mobile ICBMs, advanced ballistic missile submarines, and a variety of large, long-range cruise missiles are entering the Soviet operational inventory. The number of deployed Soviet nuclear warheads in increasing steadily and already exceeds levels that reasonably can be associated with defensive requirements and deterrence.

The pace of long-standing Soviet efforts in the field of strategic defense is quickening. Included are comprehensive measures to protect the Soviet leadership, options to deploy, relatively quickly, nationwide defenses against ballistic missiles, and extensive efforts in high-energy laser weapons and other directed-energy technologies. This single-minded commitment to the expansion of its military power has made the USSR the world’s larges weapons producer.

Even more fundamental than the visible evidence of the Soviet threat is Moscow’s unchanging view of the world: Socialism and capitalism, two diametrically opposed socioeconomic systems, are destined for conflict, the outcome of which will be in favor of Soviet Russia. These facts cannot be wished away. Soviet communism with a human face remains a mirage, in spite of sixty-eight years of Western concessions and attempts to modify Soviet behavior by political and economic means. Until the Kremlin demonstrates by concrete deeds — not merely by rhetoric — that the Soviet Union is committed to a just and lasting peace, America and her allies must enforce peace through deterrence.

Terrorism, a form of warfare that is directed against the very heart of civilization, is challenging the free world in a new dimension. In the struggle for world dominance, Soviet policy is linked to terror, subversion, and irregular warfare. America understands more readily the threat of conventional conflict and the importance of our strategic and conventional forces in deterring war. However, there seems to be a lack of understanding that another war of serious consequences is being waged in a less understandable arena. This association urges the Administration and Congress to reemphasize the seriousness of this threat to freedom everywhere and to initiate actions to create intelligence services, appropriate technologies, and military capabilities to counter and discourage actions by the Soviets and their surrogates against order and stability in areas of the world targeted for Communist expansion. In addition, preventive measures to thwart terrorism and protect Americans in and out of uniform from being victimized by terrorists must be comprehensively implemented.

At the center of this Association’s concerns is the human factor. The Soviets have shown that they can “reverse-engineer” even our most sophisticated and modern weapon systems. But they can’t “reverse-engineer” the ingenuity, the devotion to duty, and the professionalism of the men and women who serve in the United States Air Force and the other services. People truly are the underpinning of this country’s military edge. The nation cannot afford to put at risk this fundamental advantage. Steps have been taken and others are contemplated that could have pervasive, negative impact on end strength; this, in turn, would send dangerous ripple effects throughout the force.

Manpower authorizations have not matched requirements. Over the last two years, the Air Force’s military manpower request was denied some 13,000 spaces that had been programmed. Manpower increases are essential to man such new weapon systems as the B-1B and the Ground-Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM). The Air Force’s total peak wartime shortfall is in excess of 35,000 spaces. The consequence of adding new missions and weapon systems without corresponding increases in the force level degrades readiness and erodes mission effectiveness. Superior weapon systems are relegated to inferiority when they are not manned by adequate numbers of properly qualified personnel.

Shortfalls in the required force levels are especially acute in the European theater. Such requirements as the manning of the recently fielded GLCMs had to be met at the expense of other missions vital to NATO’s defense posture. This imposition of arbitrary ceilings flies in the face of the threat posed by the Warsaw Pact’s growing capabilities. Introducing deliberate vulnerabilities into the US force structure in Europe — and recurring congressional threats to widen these gaps — as a means for stimulating increased defense spending on the part of the European NATO members is, in `the view of this Association, a gamble that weakens both the Alliance and peace. America’s qualitative edge, today and in the future depends on a superior technology base. The superiority of this nation’s technology has been a “given” ever since World War II. We now see reasons for serious concern. The decade of the 1970s saw a steady decline in investment in basic research and technology. That decline at last is being arrested. But a substantial turnaround is yet to be effected. Similarly, this country’s science and engineering education programs have been badly eroded over the past two decades. Science and mathematics are seriously neglected in our secondary schools. Our colleges and universities are suffering from a lack of science and engineering staffs and from inadequate, outdated laboratory facilities. The net result is a shortage of high quality scientific and engineering manpower to build tomorrow’s technology base.

Moreover, while this nation’s technological momentum has been slowed, our adversary’s has been accelerated. Recent Soviet progress, as evidenced by new sophisticated, and highly capable weapon systems, is dramatic — and a matter of profound concern to this Association. A broad national effort is required to reinvigorate our science and engineering education as well as our basic research and technology programs. Without such an effort, our technological lead is in jeopardy. An obvious and disastrous consequence would be the inability to maintain the qualitative edge in our weapon systems.

This Association will strengthen its efforts to inform the public of these needs. We strongly support the Air Force’s program to increase technology base efforts and to continue strong emphasis on science and engineering education. This Association commends the Air Force for launching “Project Forecast II,” a comprehensive long-term road map to guide both the users and the research and development community in optimal, cost effective exploitation of science and technology.

At the present time, the US defense effort is critically dependent on strategic minerals beyond our national boundaries. The African continent is one of these vital areas. Notwithstanding the political turbulence, and regardless of the outcome, this Association urges step that ensure continued free world access to the resources essential to our survival. This Association firmly supports work on advanced materials technology that will reduce or eliminate this country’s dependence on foreign resources.

A question that clearly and understandably weighs heavily on the public’s mind is whether or not the process by which the nation buys the weapons and tools for the common defense is working. This Association believes unequivocally that we, as a nation, cannot tolerate the perception of wrongdoing or incompetence any more than we can live with actual waste, fraud, or abuse. The taxpayer is entitled to a full return on every dollar invested in the national defense. The acquisition process must be kept “lean and mean” by industry as well as by the executive and legislative branches of government.

We know that a limited number of mistakes has been portrayed as the rule rather than the exception, but we also know that there is room for improvement. Over-regulation is inhibiting the defense industry’s creativity, and a flood of new laws is engulfing program offices and industrial managers in more and more paperwork. We commend the Air Force for setting priorities wisely and austerely, with the emphasis on sustaining essential programs at the required, most effective pace and level. We urge Congress to provide responsible oversight and to authorize and appropriate funds on a sustained basis in phase with cost-effective program management. Above all, we believe that the development, acquisition, and maintenance of our weapons and supplies must be treated as a team effort by government and industry. This nation must recapture the spirit of partnership that made America the arsenal of democracy in past, trying times. This partnership works best when the responsibilities for and contributions to our national security requirements become a common challenge; adversarial relationships hinder the process.

The reliability and maintainability (R&M) standards of any weapon or support system that industry produces and that the Air Force buys and operates must be treated as an all-encompassing requirement by other partners of the government-industry team. Aircraft, missiles, and other weapon systems that can’t fly or fight when needed cripple combat effectiveness. Furthermore, systems that are deficient in terms of R&M drain the Air Force’s most valuable resource, its combat and support personnel. Adequate R&M is a “force multiplier”; inadequate R&M depletes the force. This Association commends the Air Force for taking the lead in making R&M a make-or-break criterion in systems acquisition.

Two related requirements, in this Association’s view, are imperative for retaining this country’s qualitative edge in the operational field. Aging and obsolescent weapons and equipment must be replaced expeditiously; also, the force structure has to be tailored to the growing, changing threat. Nowhere is this need more pronounced than in the strategic sector, where both offensive and defensive capabilities must be modernized or expanded.

The Administration’s five-pronged strategic program-consisting of ICBMs, strategic bombers, the Trident force, survivable command and control systems, and revitalized strategic defenses — is the categoric imperative of effective US deterrence in the years ahead. Its individual elements are sized and structured to work in concert with one another and to provide in the aggregate an unambiguous response capability essential for successful deterrence of nuclear war. Congress’s recent successful deterrence of nuclear war. Congress’s recent curtailment of individual components of this integrated curtailment of individual components of this integrated program tends to weaken all of them and puts at risk this country’s ability to deter nuclear war in a cohesive, sustained fashion. We urge Congress to support specifically the development and deployment of new, capable ICBMs that are the bedrock of our nuclear deterrence. We simply can’t afford to be wrong in maintaining the tools that are essential for the prevention of nuclear war. This Association believes that ballistic missile and strategic air defenses represent important deterrence capabilities. We must not let them atrophy.

The Administration’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) is a prudent, timely effort to gauge the technical feasibility and cost effectiveness of a layered, comprehensive ballistic missile defense system. SDI, this Association believes, is not escalatory; this research and development initiative represents a critically important, initial response to massive Soviet programs that have placed the USSR in the position of a clear-cut front-runner in strategic offensive missiles and in the field of strategic defense. If technically feasible, strategic defense systems could provide an active means for protecting the American homeland — and our allies — should deterrence fail.

The Air Force Association remains convinced that the need for successful deterrence extends across the spectrum of conflict, including theater nuclear, chemical, and conventional warfare. In cases where deterrence fails, we must respond by the flexible and sufficient application of force to ensure that no area of vital interest is lost by default. If war is force upon us, we must win — we cannot allow aggression to benefit the aggressor.

In summary, the Air Force Association sees clear evidence that the Soviet challenge and threat to our interests are global and mounting; deterrence requires, therefore, that we maintain the qualitative edge across all of America’s global response capabilities. Anything less would jeopardize peace and liberty.