A Scorecard On The Defense Budget: Preserving Key Priorities And Programs In An Era Of Cuts

Tomorrow, the Bush Administration will unveil its outline for the defense budget. That budget reportedly will reportedly seek $295 billion for the Department of Defense in FY1991, a reduction of approximately two percent in real terms from last year’s level. The Administration is said to be projecting comparable percentage reductions in future years.

Despite the significant impact the President’s budget will have on the readiness and robustness of the U.S. military, it is widely expected that Congress will effect still further reductions in the top-line for defense and alter — possibly dramatically — the composition of the armed services programs and capabilities.

The Center for Security Policy believes that such cuts in U.S. defense spending — especially the more draconian ones likely to be imposed by the Congress — are imprudent under present circumstances. The reasons for eschewing the temptation to divert these resources to other purposes (e.g., deficit reduction, domestic spending or foreign aid) include:

  • Soviet Union: There is growing uncertainty about the future course of the Soviet Union and, in particular the policies and prospects of its leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. Vigilance and continued military preparedness on the part of the United States and its allies seem entirely warranted, however.
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  • A recently declassified NATO analysis concludes that perestroika will fail. This conclusion seems borne out by Moscow’s new Five Year Plan, an economic blueprint that confirms existing priorities and rejects the sort of wholesale abandonment of the command system that had been widely expected to flow from Gorbachev’s reform program. To the contrary, Soviet production of modern strategic and conventional arms continues apace.

     

  • Third Countries: There is a troublesome growth of sophisticated military forces and weapons in the hands of potentially hostile nations (e.g., Cuba, Syria, Libya, and Iraq). Especially troublesome are the facts that an increasing number of states are:
    • Gaining access to nuclear, chemical and biological weapons capabilities and ballistic missile technology.
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    • Able to utilize advanced air defense systems that pose significant threats to current-generation U.S. aircraft, potentially severely limiting — or raising the costs of — American military options for dealing with such nations.
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  • Overseas Deployments: The United States is likely to lose some of its access to forward deployed positions and overseas facilities as existing basing agreements expire, are renegotiated or are obviated by emerging arms control agreements.
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  • Arms Control: Some of these agreements — affecting strategic and conventional forces, nuclear testing and chemical weapons — could also result in U.S. forces substantially less effective as deterrents to aggression as a result of changes in their size, composition, technological sophistication and disposition.
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  • Production Base: The long-term security of the United States is already being compromised by the declining state of the U.S. technology and production bases. Past cuts in the defense budget and those now being anticipated are dampening investment in associated research and development and industrial capacity.

 

The Center believes that these factors argue for:

  • Preserving a U.S. military posture with the inherent size, flexibility, technological sophistication and robustness to constitute reliable deterrents to the range of prospective threats.
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  • Not unilaterally reducing or removing forces affected by future arms control agreements from service or from their present deployment locations until such agreements have been completed and ratified.
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  • Placing a priority on the preservation of national technology and production bases irrespective of the size of the proposed reductions in top-line spending. The more draconian the U.S. defense cuts, the more important it will be to maintain vigorous research and development programs and to avoid critical shortfalls and bottlenecks in defense production capacity as vital hedges against future security threats.

 

A Conceptual Approach

Insofar as the executive and legislative branches are, nonetheless, determined to effect significant cuts in defense spending, the Center believes that such funds as are made available to the Defense Department should be expended in accordance with two overarching priorities: First, force restructuring must be designed in such a way as to preserve America’s most vital military capabilities, not simply to spread the pain evenly among the military services. And second, steps must be taken to sustain and enhance the United States’ competitive advantage in technologically advanced systems, an advantage on which its security has long depended.

The Center offers the following as examples of the sort of investment and force structure the United States must maintain if it is to meet vital future requirements.

Nuclear Forces

Nuclear weapons will continue for the foreseeable future to be an essential element of the U.S. deterrent posture. Accordingly, the United States must be extremely chary of arms control agreements that would impose profound cuts — or otherwise erode the credibility of — its strategic nuclear arms.

Similarly, there should be no preemptive reduction of U.S. strategic forces in anticipation of a START accord. For example, the United States should at this juncture not retire the 450 Minuteman II missiles — in some ways the most flexible strategic nuclear weapons in the arsenal.

The Center’s specific programmatic recommendations are:

  • The United States should maintain a robust force of survivably deployed, highly accurate land-based ballistic missiles. This requires maintaining at least one "hot" production line for a modern ICBM.
    • The proposed U.S. rail- and road- mobile basing modes for the MX and Midgetman ICBMs, however, will not in themselves solve the growing survivability problem posed by, among other things, modernized and new Soviet heavy missiles. Neither will anything short of a general ban on both MIRVed and single-warhead mobile ICBMs be verifiable in a START agreement.
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    • Instead, a combination of multiple, austere silos among which a transportable (as opposed to fully mobile) missile could be moved and an ability to defend the loaded silos preferentially offers a more militarily and cost-effective approach.
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  • The Center believes the United States must retain a flexible, long-range penetrating bomber capability.
    • Toward this end, the Nation should proceed with production and deployment of the B-2.
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  • A robust sea-based U.S. deterrent is essential.
    • The number of platforms capable of launching nuclear retaliatory forces should be maximized. By the same token, START must not be permitted to drive the SSBN force to levels that jeopardize the survivability of U.S. SLBMs.
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    • The notion of permitting START (or other agreements) to impose limitations on the number or deployment options for sea-launched cruise missiles should be firmly rejected. Such limitations cannot be effectively verified; even if they could be, they would be unacceptable as they would restrict strategically valuable and highly cost-effective U.S. capabilities.
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  • The development and deployment of advanced air- and sea-based longer-range cruise missiles should be strongly supported.
    • In particular, a hot production line should be retained for the Tomahawk SLCM which, due to its ability to be outfitted with a variety of conventional and nuclear payloads, is a powerful and relatively inexpensive force multiplier.
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  • As a matter of utmost priority, the United States must assure the restoration of a reliable nuclear weapons production base.
    • It cannot afford to continue to eliminate or curtail operation of the associated production complex without risking severe long-term harm to the U.S. deterrent posture.
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    • Nuclear testing must continue to be permitted to play its indispensable role in ensuring the credibility, effectiveness and safety of U.S. nuclear forces.
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    • Accordingly, no new nuclear testing limitations agreements should be undertaken.
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SDI and Space

  • The deployment of strategic defenses (SDI) against ballistic missiles is an urgent national defense priority.
    • It is not necessary for such a system to be leakproof. Each stage, from modest initial steps to a comprehensive multi-layered system, would contribute increased deterrence and defense against Soviet and emerging Third World threats.
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    • Such a defense must involve space-based interceptors — a technology which has made dramatic, and increasingly cost effective advances. Ideally, an underlay of ground-based interceptors would also be deployed in a layered SDI system.
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    • The technology already available to the United States is such as to permit a deployment decision to be taken in the near future. The SDI program should be configured to support such an early decision; if necessary, SDIO resources should be diverted from longer-term technology development efforts in order to ensure that near-term deployment-oriented programs are fully funded.
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  • The role of space is a paramount national security area for communications, control, and intelligence and as a force- multiplier for terrestrial forces. In the latter regard, the United States must deploy an effective anti-satellite system at the earliest possible moment.
    • Technology is now available as a result of the research and development done under the SDI program to meet this requirement quite quickly.
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General Purpose Forces

Army

  • The Center believes that the United States (which today fields 18 active and 10 reserve Army divisions) requires a minimum of 15 active and 9 reserve divisions.
    • Under the currently proposed Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) agreement, the United States might remove one division from Europe. This should not be done, however, unless and until an agreement mandating such a withdrawal is completed and ratified. With further CFE steps, up to two additional divisions might be withdrawn.
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    • In restructuring its assets, the Army should retain not more than six active duty light divisions to include the two airborne divisions. The remaining divisions should continue to be comprised of heavy divisions tailored to the Army’s unique mission of combatting heavy Soviet forces.
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  • The Army should place high priority on the rapid deployment of modern air defense systems and anti-armor systems (e.g., the promising Fiber Optical Guided Missile (FOGM)).
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  • As Army forces become ever more concentrated in the continental United States, the national need for the means to redeploy them to distant battlefields will increase markedly.
    • The Center believes that world conditions may make it possible to rely upon a logistical mix which places greater emphasis on sea-lift than air-lift than is currently the case. Under present circumstances, the Army will require greater capabilities of both types; this need should be carefully assessed before any decision is taken to terminate programs like the C-17.
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    • The Center also notes that a decision to place greater emphasis on sea-lift should translate into a commitment both to additional transport capacity and to the preservation of a larger naval fleet needed to secure the sea lines of communication over which such transports must move.
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Navy

  • U.S. global maritime requirements are likely to increase, rather than decrease in the future.
    • In view of their inherent flexibility of operation, power-projection capabilities, and relative independence from fixed forward bases, the Navy should retain not fewer than 14 battle groups configured around carriers, and at least 2 battle groups configured around battleships.
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  • A large and technologically advanced fleet of attack submarines must be retained.
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  • As noted above, the Navy must remain able to deploy nuclear weapons on a variety of platforms and continue to be able to operate flexibly throughout the world’s oceans — capabilities the Soviets are clearly intent on constraining through naval arms control agreements.
    • The U.S. Navy must, in particular, retain the capability to deter the use of naval nuclear arms against its fleet. Arms control agreements cannot protect against such an eventuality; were the United States to enter into such agreements it would face particularly intractable verification problems. Given the ease with which the Soviets could cheat on an agreement — and the incentive they would have to do so (given the considerable vulnerability of the U.S. fleet to nuclear attack) — the only realistic option is for the United States to deploy a modest number of effective nuclear weapons for anti-ship, submarine and aircraft purposes.
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  • The Marines should remain the Nation’s preeminent light ground force. With its dedicated sea-lift, air assets and self-sustainability, its capabilities would be hard — and unnecessary — to replicate.

 

Air Force

  • As with the Navy, priority should be given to preserving Air Force elements whose inherent flexibility adds much to America’s world-wide power-projection capabilities.
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  • The Center believes that the United States must retain a minimum of 22 active and 14 reserve air wings, a reduction of only one wing from the current total of 37 wings when and if the completion and ratification of a Conventional Forces in Europe agreement necessitates its removal from Europe.

 

Technology Base

  • In assessing prospective cuts and future defense programs and force structures, particular attention must be paid to preserving an effective technology base.
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  • If necessary, it is preferable to make sacrifices in the readiness of deployed forces — which lend themselves to relatively expeditious correction — rather than to permit sacrifice of the nation’s perishable ability to provide competitive defense systems for the future.
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  • In this connection, programs like the V-22, which hold enormous promise not only for the military technology base but also for the civilian sector, should be fully realized by production and introduction into the active inventory.
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  • Special caution should be exercised in permitting the Soviet Union to utilize arms control agreements to block U.S. technological advances in the development of cost-effective capabilities (e.g., SDI, cruise missiles, nuclear testing and chemical weapons).

 

Production Base

  • With numerous potential threats evident in today’s unstable world, the United States must be prepared for future contingencies and should not be in the position of eliminating its ability to produce existing front-line equipment — such as combat aircraft and helicopters — without having hot production lines established for replacement systems.
    • In this regard, decisions such as those to terminate the F-14, F-15, AH-64, A-6 and Blackhawk lines while the next generation systems (ATA/ATF and LHX) appear suspended in R&D limbo, expose the nation to grave risk.
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    • Sufficient information must be made public about the status of these follow-ons to permit informed decisions about the wisdom of eliminating existing production capability.
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Intelligence and Threat Assessment

  • At time of major instabilities in the Soviet Union and the Third World, of shifting Alliance perceptions, and of fluctuations in U.S. defense expenditures, it is important that U. S. defense decisions be made on an informed basis.
    • This requires support of programs assuring effective intelligence monitoring of developments affecting U.S. national security. It also requires the preparation of realistic, comprehensive assessments of potential threats and appropriate responses. Both requirements must be properly programed and funded.
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The Scorecard

The Center will be critically examining the budget proposals offered by the Bush Administration and the Congress as the Defense authorization and appropriations measures proceed. At each step we will assess the compatibility of the emerging legislation with the foregoing, critical defense priorities and required capabilities with a view to illuminating dangerous shortfalls and areas where corrective actions are needed by the executive or legislative branches.

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