Reagan’s Defense Plans

Aug. 1, 1980
Washington, D. C., July 8

Reagan’s Defense Plans

The chairman of Ronald Reagan’s team of defense and foreign policy advisors, Richard V. Allen, says that if elected, the Republicans’ first priority in the defense sector will be to remedy the military manpower problem. He told this column, “The thought that many military people in order to serve their country have to work on other, second, jobs for long hard hours in order to feed their families and educate their kids while [other soldiers, sailors, and airmen] have to rely on food stamps is appalling.”

He added that Governor Reagan believes that about $6 billion should be added to the Defense budget to correct the current pay and benefit deficiencies and to “alleviate the human problem.” Mr. Allen stressed that without “good, properly motivated people” all the military equipment and weapon systems in the world are for naught. The defense and foreign policy expert, who is expected to head up the National Security Council staff if Governor Reagan wins the election, declined to affix any other priorities to solving current military weaknesses “at this early stage” on grounds that “there simply are too many and they loom so large across a wide spectrum” that extends from spare parts to the need to resurrect or accelerate a number of major weapon systems.

Mr. Allen heads a team of about one hundred defense and foreign policy experts—known as the “Gang of One Hundred”—that provides guidance for the Republican election campaign and is to frame initial policy in case a Reagan Administration takes over next January. He said the Republicans have not yet costed out what they deem a lean but adequate Defense budget. Under Reagan, an increase in “defense spending, compared to the current levels, is likely but not inevitable,” he said. The Reagan camp, he said, contrary to some press allegations, is not for “unbridled defense spending,” although acutely aware of the fact that “quick remedies” are needed.

Mr. Allen declined to speculate on who might be picked as Secretary of Defense in case of a Republican victory in November, other than to say that he or she most likely would be intimately familiar with the inner workings of the Defense Department and the individual services and be accustomed to delegating authority. He stressed that a Reagan Administration would “leave micromanagement” of defense issues to the admirals and generals. This column learned from other highly placed sources, however, that while no firm decision concerning candidates for the post of Secretary of Defense has been made, former Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Gen. Alexander Haig (the latter also a candidate for Secretary of State), and Sens. Henry Jackson (D-Wash.) and Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) are under consideration. These Republican sources point out that the choice of a Democrat for the job of Secretary of Defense in a Reagan Administration IS a distinct possibility. Under present law, General Haig is ineligible for the Secretary of Defense job, having been on active duty in the Regular Army within the past ten Years.

The first order of business for Reagan’s defense advisors is to review and cost out in current dollars a “baseline” Defense budget consisting of the programs provided for by the last Five-Year Defense Plan (FYDP) of the Ford Administration, drawn up in January 1977. Mr. Allen said the Reagan camp views this set of programs as the essential minimum needed to continue realistic, equitable arms-control negotiations with the Soviets and to provide adequate levels of security for the decade of the 1980s.

He claimed that the Carter Administration’s cancellation of the B-1 program and stretchout of the MX program and stretchout of the MX programs of the Ford defense plan, are the principal reasons for the US Senate’s opposition to SALT II. Mr. Allen added, however, that Governor Reagan has criticized SALT II for a range of other reasons: “Reagan has stated time and again that he favors continued arms-control talks with the Soviets, but that he opposes this particular treaty for reasons of merit rather than ideology. We don’t plan to be truculent concerning arms control in the election campaign.”

Ronald Reagan differs from Jimmy Carter on the issue of arms control, Mr. Allen claimed, because the Republicans believe that the Soviets are spending as much on defense as their economy permits, whereas this country, if necessary, could increase greatly its investments in national security. Hence, the Republicans reason that if the Kremlin decided against continuation of negotiations toward realistic and balanced arms control, thus, inevitably, accelerating the arms race, it would place the Soviet Union at a disadvantage. The Republicans think that if the Soviets were to start an arms race against a Reagan Administration, they would lose and, therefore, “see that there is an incentive to return to the negotiating table and resume reasonable, realistic arms-control negotiations.”

Mr. Allen stressed that this assessment of US leverage for fair and equitable arms control should not be construed to mean that the Reagan camp plans “to spend the Russians into the poor house.” So far as overall budgetary and fiscal policies are concerned, the Reagan camp remains ideologically but not slavishly committed to a balanced Federal budget. Confronted with clear and present dangers in terms of national security, Reagan would accept an unbalancing of the budget in order to correct defense deficiencies, Mr. Allen said.

In the crucial strategic sector, Mr. Allen acknowledged that the opportunity for quick remedies is limited. The Reagan defense advisors recognize, he said, that “for example, the MX, if it goes through in its present form, is a system that is of no value to us until the end of the decade. It addresses the counterforce problem, but it does not solve a whole host of other problems.” Governor Reagan, to date, has not taken a definitive position concerning MX, but we are well aware of it and are debating it,” Mr. Allen said.

He added that while most of the advisory team favors MX in principle—even though the question of basing mode is not considered fully resolved—“we have some people who don’t think MX is worth very much itself.” The Reagan advisors who hold this view do recognize, however, that the MX program “is the only thing we have on the boards” in the strategic sector at this time. Asked if the Reagan team would be willing to abrogate the SALT I ABM Treaty in order to back up MX with its own preferential (mobile and concealed) ballistic missile point defense, the Republican spokesman cautioned that “the abrogation of a treaty has large consequences, and one doesn’t take such a step lightly.”

The Reagan defense advisors as yet have no solid position on a follow-on strategic bomber or USAF’s related Long-Range Combat Aircraft (LRCA): “Governor Reagan favors development and deployment of a bomber based on B-1 technology. Whether this should actually be the B-1 or something else has not yet been decided. We are concerned, however, over the fact that, if the country were to go ahead [with development of a new manned strategic weapon system now, operational status could not be achieved] until the end of the decade.” The Reagan team is looking in this context at the FB-111 BIC program recommended by the Strategic Air Command, but has not yet decided whether it should be implemented or not, he said.

The “Hollow” Status of the US Army

In a recent discussion with defense writers, Gen. E. C. Meyer, the US Army Chief of Staff, explained what he meant when he told Congress last month that he had a “hollow army,” Strength of the CONUS-based forces—that sector of his service that would have to provide the reinforcements incase of a NATO war and which also represents the Army component of the vaunted Rapid Deployment Force (RDF)—ranges from the “seventy-five percent to eighty-five percent level,” meaning that the manpower shortfalls vary between twenty-five and fifteen percent.

These shortfall variances are functions of the priorities assigned to US Army divisions stationed in the CONUS and lead to the “zeroing out” of whole platoons, squads, and fire-teams, he told this column. Additionally, the CONUS Army is plagued by serious shortfalls in noncommissioned officers. Exacerbating the latter condition is the fact that “we keep our forces in Europe at about 105 percent of NCD strength and had to assign additional numbers of them to recruiting duty and to the Reserve Forces,” General Meyer said.

The Army’s condition, however, is not unrelievedly bleak, General Meyer asserted: “The strength of today’s Army is in its officers, in its senior noncoms, in its forward deployed forces, and in the steps we are taking” in training and force modernization. The forward deployed force in Europe, he averred, “probably is in as good a shape as it ever has been in since World War II, so far as manning, training, and equipment go.”

Next to the paramount manpower problem, General Meyer said, the top-priority challenge of the Army is the lagging rate of equipment and weapons modernization. Both the Air Force and the Navy were able to modernize essential weapon systems, especially aircraft, during the past decade. The Army’s turn at modernization is now, “during this decade,” General Meyer said. The delayed Army modernization, he admitted, is probably a blessing in disguise since “the Army we were headed for in our planning [until recently] was almost exclusively a mechanized Army [tailored] for Central Europe.”

Following guidance from the Defense Department, this orientation toward Central European scenarios introduced an almost total bias toward “heavy” divisions and a downplaying of capabilities needed to operate in the Middle East, Africa, and other Third World areas, General Meyer said. This “Fulda Gap” syndrome overlooked the utility of “light” forces even in Europe, he said, adding that “I happen to believe that light divisions are absolutely essential in Central Europe.” The reason is that a mix between infantry and mechanized forces promotes operational flexibility. Also, the Army Chief of Staff pointed out, the potency of light forces is boosted by the advent of precision-guided munitions and the ability to link them with prepositioned material In the context of the modern Army, “light” means soldiers who can be moved around rapidly by helicopter or light ground vehicles, not “walking” soldiers, General Meyer stressed.

The Army’s shift in emphasis already has caused significant changes, including a planned increase in the number of “light” divisions from two to five. Initially, General Meyer said, the Army was to build up a force of fourteen heavy divisions, out of a total of sixteen. Only the Airborne and Air Assault Divisions were to remain in the light category. In light of recent developments and extensive reevaluation of what the Army of the future should look like, this plan was dropped. Instead, five divisions will be light, and only eleven will be in the heavy, mechanized category. In addition, General Meyer pointed out, there are three light Marine Corps divisions, which “by logic” should remain in the light to medium range.

He defined a heavy division as one that will be equipped with 324 XM-1 tanks, as well as infantry fighting vehicles, mechanized artillery, mechanized engineers, and mechanized air defense weapons. He termed air defense an “uncertain area,” subject to tradeoffs between the Patriot medium/high altitude surface-to-air missile system, the US Roland all-weather short-range air defense system, and DIVAD, the Division Air Defense gun, all of which are costly. Further, General Meyer said, there also are pending “tradeoffs between what the Air Force does and what we do in this area that will be very critical” in terms of what ground-based air defense systems the Army should field in future.

The equipment makeup of a light division is not nailed down fully at this time, but probably will involve a light, lightly armored carrier of some kind, Dragon lightweight antitank/assault wire-guided missiles, TOW heavy antitank/assault missiles mounted on both combat vehicles and Cobra helicopters, advanced electronic warfare capabilities, armor-fighting helicopters. and lightweight artillery transportable by helicopters, General Meyer predicted. A key influence on the makeup of the Army’s future light division, the Army Chief of Staff acknowledged, is Soviet emphasis on attack helicopters. Terming this development the “latest change in the FEBA [forward edge of the battle area],” he said the US Army was watching very closely how the Soviets use attack helicopters in Afghanistan, especially as they learn how to adjust the operation of these weapons to ground-based threats. The Soviets, he stressed, are outproducing the US in attack helicopters.

Accompanying the Army’s shining concern from essentially Central European scenarios to more versatile contingencies is increased stress on EW capabilities. EW, he said, can provide the Army with broad opportunities that we “haven’t appreciated sufficiently in the past.” As long as the focus was confined narrowly to a Soviet attack in Central Europe, the underlying, obvious assumption was that the Warsaw Pact forces would engage mainly in preplanned, centrally controlled operations, meaning that at least for the first seventy-two hours of the attack they would maintain communications silence. This factor, combined with the Pact forces’ access to redundant communications nets, and landlines, kept the US Army from investing scarce resources in EW, General Meyer pointed out.

But the picture was reversed with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the attendant prospect that the Kremlin’s adventurism might have to be met elsewhere in Third World areas. In case of such power projections “for which they are not preprogrammed and where they haven’t drilled their people for the past twenty years, the Soviets will face situations that demand flexibility,” General Meyer asserted. Flexibility, however, depends on communications, which will no longer be redundant and thus become vulnerable. The “new” Army plans to exploit Soviet vulnerability to EW in Third World scenarios to the hilt, General Meyer promised. EW systems that the Army plans to bring into its inventory will include air- and ground-based jammers, remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs), and a variety of weapons that can paralyze the enemy’s command and control system, General Meyer said.

CNO Favors Draft, Across-the-Board Pay Hike

Adm. Thomas B. Hayward, the Chief of Naval Operations, told this column recently that an “across-the-board pay increase, probably in the range of twenty-five percent” is needed to cure the worsening manpower problem that is afflicting the armed forces. Such a pay hike, he suggested, should be granted incrementally over the next three years. Overall cost would be $6 billion, he estimated. Dramatizing his commitment to this measure, he said. “I would be willing to cut [monies for weapon systems if that is needed to get this pay raise.” While the Nunn-Warner amendment providing for a broad pay and benefits package represents progress and signals an attitude of support for military people by the “Washington leadership,” it is “not enough” by itself to assuage current personnel problems. The Navy at this time, he said, is about 21,000 petty officers below its programmed strength.

In the CNO’s view, the All-Volunteer Force “is gradually slipping into a failure mode.” Asserting that he is now “philosophically in favor of a draft,” Admiral Hayward explained that return to the draft is needed “to pull us together” as a nation. Acknowledging that the draft would not solve the retention problem, he said the merit of returning to conscription is psychological in that it would demonstrate a palpable commitment to national defense on the part of the US.

Washington Observations

ê Burning the midnight oil, the US Senate worked its way through a maze of amendments to take an important step toward the development and acquisition of a new manned strategic weapon system that could achieve Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in 1987. In adding $91 million to USAF’s RDT&E authorization “for an advanced technology strategic bomber,” the Senate specified that “such designs and advanced and engineering development shall include but not be limited to the FB-111 B/C; a multirole bomber aircraft, a variant of the B-1 bomber aircraft; an advanced technology aircraft, or an appropriate mix of such aircraft, so long as such aircraft have the capability of performing the missions of conventional bomber, cruise missile launch platform, and nuclear weapons delivery systems.”

The Senate further instructed the Secretary of Defense to report by February 15, 1981, to the Armed Services Committees for both houses of Congress “the results of this effort, including comparisons of advanced technology aircraft with the B-1 and the FB-111B/C in terms of cost and military effectiveness.” In addition, the Senate instructed the Secretary to pursue vigorously the development of a strategic bomber that “maximizes range, payload, and ability to perform the missions of conventional bomber, cruise missile launch platform, and nuclear weapons delivery in both the tactical and strategic role.”

The Senate language will have to be reconciled with an earlier House measure that authorized only development of a strategic weapons launcher (SWL), a B-1 derivative. The betting is that the House will accede to the more flexible Senate approach. A joint conference was slated to take up this matter late in July.

ê US intelligence systems produced evidence of two new Soviet ICBM silos at the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site. Larger than the 55-18 silo, the new silos, whose construction got under way this spring, appear to differ from one another slightly. Also, three new silos are being built at Tyuratam in Kazakhstan. Over the past year, the Soviets built five new silos at Plesetsk, north of Moscow. These I silos are slightly smaller than the SS17/88-19 shelters. The silos at Tyuratam and Plesetsk appear to be test facilities for the so-called fifth generation of Soviet ICBMs.

ê The Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory recently completed an intensive study of ballistic missile defense (BMD) technology at the behest of Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N. M.). It concluded that over the long term, directed energy weapons, either lasers or a particle-beam system, show a potential for intercepting ICBMs and SLBMs in their boost phase, before the missiles can dispense their individual MIRVs. At the same time, the study found that “this high-risk, high-payoff technology cannot affect the strategic balance this decade but justifies a sustained research effort.” Soviet investment in BMD runs at a rate of about $1 billion a year, according to the study. Overall, the study concluded that a layered BMD system, designed for both exo- and endoatmospheric interceptions, provides the most cost-effective protection for ICBMs and is now technically feasible.

ê Pentagon analysts tend to look Upon the Marine Corps’s infatuation with the AV-88 V/STOL aircraft with a jaundiced eye. As a senior Defense official recently put it, the AV-8B’s ability “to take off from tennis courts becomes meaningless” since, without fighter cover, the V/STOL aircraft “will get shot down.” The V/STOL qualities of the aircraft, thus, are negated in an operational environment, he argued, since the normal constraints of the fighter aircraft, such as the F-18, will apply in effect also to the AV-88’s utility.