U.S. Defense Policy
To the Editor:
It is always a pleasure to encounter Edward N. Luttwak [“The Defense Budget and Israel,” February] in the pages of COMMENTARY. He writes elegantly, his sarcasm bites deeply, he is always provocative. Were he only a novelist. He is not, though. He writes on substantive matters and on issues of national policy. And he writes mainly for large lay audiences. As a result, a few liberties, an exaggeration, an imperfection in his analysis could affect the perceptions of a great number of people.
There is only one error of fact in Mr. Luttwak’s article which is significant enough to warrant comment. The large increase in the share of the defense budget consumed by manpower costs should not, as Mr. Luttwak asserts, be blamed on the abolition of conscription. Most of the increase, at least two-thirds, can be attributed to legislation (the so-called Rivers Amendment) passed in 1968, long before the United States seriously contemplated moving to an all-volunteer armed force. The legislation specified that military pay was to be made comparable with pay in the private sector. While it is possible that military salaries would have increased to present levels in order to support an all-volunteer army in any case, it is certain that the burden of manpower costs would be nearly as high today even if we still had the draft.
A much more important criticism of “The Defense Budget and Israel” concerns its distortion of the views of many of those who advocate reductions in U.S. defense spending. Mr. Luttwak identifies two classes of budget cutters. While there may be a few people in the United States who propose a 90 percent cut in defense spending (Mr. Luttwak’s first class), certainly none of the individuals or groups mentioned in the article, nor any other serious observer of, or participant in, the budget process advocates such drastic measures.
There are some who advocate a 25 to 30 percent reduction in the defense budget (Mr. Luttwak’s second class), and a few of these are mentioned in his article. This group, however, is a distinct minority, as was demonstrated convincingly during the 1972 Presidential campaign.
The majority of those who advocate reductions in defense spending (a group not mentioned in Mr. Luttwak’s article) urge cuts on the order of 5 to 10 per cent. People who take this position generally believe that reductions of this magnitude are possible without any decrease in that part of the U.S. military posture relevant to support of our real national interests and, incidentally, to the defense of Israel.
A 10 per-cent reduction in defense spending is made possible by changes in strategies, manpower policies, and procurement programs falling into four broad categories.
- Strategic nuclear forces. While it is true that the United States now spends less for strategic weapons than it did ten years ago, many believe that further reductions are still possible without any impairment to national security. These reductions would be based on three precepts: (a) some of the current strategic-weapons programs could lead to less security rather than greater security, e.g., high-accuracy ICBM’s; (b) some strategic-weapons programs are poorly designed and therefore too expensive, and cheaper alternatives are available, e.g., the B-l bomber; and (c) the U.S. at present has sufficient nuclear weapons for any conceivable military or political purpose and, therefore, a slower pace of weapons acquisition is possible.
- Forces for Asian contingencies. While the United States has disassembled most of the force structure built up in the Pacific during the Vietnam war, we still have roughly 150,000 military personnel in the Pacific. Additional forces are maintained in Hawaii and the continental United States, but earmarked for Asian contingencies. Many argue that given the redefinition of U.S. interests in Asia and our new relationship with China, further reductions in these forces—particularly troops in Thailand, the Philippines, with the Seventh Fleet, and possibly in Korea and Japan—are possible. . . .
- Manpower efficiencies. The Defense Department has begun to increase the ratio of personnel in combat units to those in support and auxiliary functions. Some argue that an even larger shift in this direction is possible, with consequent reductions in total Defense Department manpower and, therefore, in the size of the Defense Department budget. Some specific measures in this regard would include streamlining of the military-educational establishment, changes in personnel-assignment policies, greater substitution of reserve for active manpower, the closure of excess military bases, and a reduction in the navy’s land-based infrastructure.
- Buying cheaper weapons. Finally, it can be argued that programs to substitute less technologically advanced and therefore cheaper weapons and equipment for some types of very sophisticated military hardware could be extended both in size and number.
In summary, by suggesting that critics of the administration’s defense program are extremists and by omitting any mention of that large body of opinion which would choose far more moderate reductions in the cost of defense, Mr. Luttwak has done a disservice to responsible debate on U.S. defense policy.
Incidentally, he does a disservice to the cause of Israel’s security as well. The United States faces many problems in the second half of the decade—problems whose solutions usually demand increased federal spending and which, therefore, compete with the Defense Department for national resources. Those who desire a continuing high level of American support for Israel—both in terms of direct military and economic assistance and in terms of a strong U.S. defense posture capable of supporting a firm foreign policy—would be well advised to take full account of competing demands. Economies are possible in defense spending; the more they are implemented, the lesser will be the burden of defense upon the nation. And the lesser the burden, the more likely will the burden be borne with equanimity by the citizenry of this nation in the years ahead.
Barry M. Blechman
The Brookings Institution
To the Editor:
. . . Edward N. Luttwak asks how liberals in general, and liberal Jews in particular, can expect a high level of military aid to Israel to be maintained along with deep reductions in our own arsenal. Logically they can’t, but emotionally they can and they do. The reason lies in a criticism, quoted by Mr. Luttwak, of the all-volunteer army: “. . . its enactment by Congress reflects the belief of the legislators that young Americans, unlike young Russians, or for that matter young Israelis, are no longer willing to serve their country, and if need be, fight for its ideals—or interests.” If you change this sentence to read “young Americans . . . ought not to be willing . . . ,” you have a pretty fair version of what many liberals do in fact think.
If America is as corrupt and as much given to immorality as it has lately been fashionable to claim, then this country can have neither operating ideals nor justifiable interests worth defending. Israel, on the other hand, has retained the allegiance of many in the liberal opinion-making elite to whom martial power seems a prideful and fitting expression of Israeli nationhood. So the liberals Mr. Luttwak wonders about appear quite consistent in their own eyes: They like Israel but dislike the U.S., as simple as that. . . .
There is also a strictly . . . political consideration. The intelligentsia (among whom I count the liberals Mr. Luttwak talks about) have been “in opposition” rather than “in power” in this country for a good ten years now. Power may corrupt, but I used to be in politics myself and I often noticed how lack of power could prove equally corrupting. The poison seems to work most fiercely on bright, aggressive people with an itch to rule—in a word, on liberals. There seems to be no antidote but the responsibilities of power. Eventually we will have a liberal government, and so political liberals will once again be able to identify with the country rather than being against it. . . .
Manhattan Beach, California
To the Editor:
In almost every respect Edward N. Luttwak has performed a valuable service . . . by providing . . . a detailed appraisal of the defense budget now before Congress and its implications for national and international security. However, I am compelled to expand on his remarks about the marine corps in order to put in proper context our structure and mission. To do otherwise, I believe, would leave your readers with less than a full understanding of the role of the marine corps in national defense.
Mr. Luttwak characterizes the marine divisions as “essentially ground forces.” Presumably, marine aircraft wings could be described as “essentially tactical air forces.” Yet both statements miss the mark. What the marine corps provides, for less than 5 per cent of the defense dollar, is a set of three ready marine amphibious forces with similar capabilities. Each has both ground and air components under a single commander and staff and is supported by its own logistics organization. Elements of a marine amphibious force are stationed together, operate together, and are staffed primarily by members of a single service. As a result, the net capabilities of each force are greater than the sum of its components, particularly in terms of readiness to respond rapidly in a crisis with a balanced force of appropriate size.
Understanding the definition of ready amphibious forces as marine air-ground units in combination with the proper number and types of navy ships to support them raises the question of force levels. Speculation that a residual capability for amphibious warfare can be maintained by a small number of marine and navy specialists is perhaps superficially attractive. However, such a reduction in the nation’s ready amphibious forces flies in the face of Mr. Luttwak’s carefully developed thesis that our country must maintain a strong, versatile military establishment. Our strategic situation as an island in the world ocean dictates the essential naval character of any effort to project our influence in an overseas area where vital interests are threatened, be it Western Europe, the Middle East, or Northeast Asia.
In that context, and to meet inherent commitments for response across the range of operations from demonstration of credible force to sustained assault across a hostile shore, the marine corps is assigned its present mission and forces. To the degree that we can perceive strategic requirements in coming years, there seems to be no rational alternative.
(General) R. E. Cushman, Jr.
Commandant of the Marine Corps
To the Editor:
It is a disservice to American supporters of Israel to suggest, as does Edward N. Luttwak, that our bloated military cannot be significantly reduced without endangering Israeli defense needs. Israel has asked the United States solely for an assured supply of up-to-date materiel. The Israeli government itself has rejected American intervention and even a defense pact with the United States. A substantial level of military aid to Israel would be about $2 billion a year. By comparison, the administration is seeking $105 billion in budget authority for the Pentagon in fiscal 1976 and an anticipated $148 billion by fiscal 1980.
According to Mr. Luttwak, every penny of this huge expenditure, which comes on top of the $1.5 trillion invested in the military since the end of World War II, is needed to deter “Soviet activism” through a global military balance which, “incidentally,” gives Israel “a fighting chance.” How incidental can analysis be?
What is “Soviet activism”? In recent years it has consisted chiefly of running a nuclear arms race with the United States; supplying military aid to allies, chiefly in the Middle East and in Southeast Asia; keeping a million-man army on the Soviet-Chinese border, and occasionally suppressing dissent in Warsaw Pact countries. But U.S. military power cannot end, indeed helps to stimulate, the arms race. U.S. military power cannot stop the Soviet Union from sending aid to Syria or Iraq, any more than Soviet military power can halt U.S. aid to Israel or Saudi Arabia. U.S. military power could not prevent the Red Army from occupying Czechoslovakia in 1968, just as Soviet military power could not prevent the landing of American troops in Vietnam in 1965. Finally, U.S. military power has no direct role to play in the Sino-Soviet dispute. In short, there are limits to the usefulness of military power.
Moreover, the kind of “activism” which Mr. Luttwak fears on the other side and encourages on ours is less and less meaningful in a world where the major problems are largely economic: the need for energy and natural resources, inflation, trade barriers, pressures from Third World countries for a larger slice of the global pie, and the burdens of the arms race.
Just as there are limits to the usefulness of military power, there is potential usefulness—if the means are consistent with the goals. The most basic goal is defense of one’s homeland; the next in importance for the United States is defense of vital interests abroad. Strategic (nuclear) forces are generally devoted to the first, general-purpose forces to the second. The United States has overreacted at both levels. The existing nuclear overkill capacity is unnecessary to defend either the United States or Israel. U.S. general-purpose forces are tied to a host of peripheral interests in Asia and elsewhere, and to vital interests in NATO countries which, however, care more for their oil supplies than for aiding Israel. Undergirding the entire military establishment is a lavishly wasteful system of procurement which has fueled inflation for a generation.
Deterrence against Soviet attack was the earliest nuclear-age mission of the U.S. armed forces. That aim has long since been achieved. Shortly before John Kennedy became President, his science adviser, Jerome Wiesner, wrote: “Studies made independently by the army and navy have indicated that, even in the absence of agreements limiting force size and permitting inspection, 200 relatively secure missiles would provide an adequate nuclear deterrent” (Daedalus, Fall 1960). The army and navy planners undoubtedly chose the figure of 200 because it corresponded to the number of major Soviet cities. Since one missile carrying an H-bomb can destroy a city, the theory of deterrence held that the Soviets would be deterred if threatened with the annihilation of their population centers.
Defense Secretary Robert McNamara pinpointed, in 1967, the number of separate nuclear warheads (H-bombs) as the “most meaningful and realistic measure of nuclear capability.” The number of warheads determines the number of major targets that can be destroyed. McNamara later estimated that 200-400 H-bombs could provide deterrence.
Focusing only on recent budgets for strategic weapons and the number of missiles, Mr. Luttwak denies that the United States has engaged in a nuclear arms race. But an examination of the number of strategic warheads makes the steady upward cycle unmistakable. The United States has increased its number of warheads from 1,830 in 1961 to 8,500 in 1975. The USSR has gone from 210 to 2,800 during the same period. We have 39 H-bombs for each of today’s 219 major Soviet cities.
The United States has maintained its superiority in numbers of H-bombs while the Soviets have built more missiles with more explosive power (megatonnage). But, as the State Department has observed, “It is not the total megatonnage that counts.” Four one-megaton bombs equal one 16-megaton bomb. It is the technology known as MIRV (Multiple Independently-targetable Reentry Vehicle) which accounts for the big lead in target-killing H-bombs. A MIRV is a missile resembling a space bus with up to ten passengers. Each passenger is an H-bomb that can be guided electronically to a separate target with great accuracy. Because they can reach so many different targets, MIRV’s have multiplied the destructive range of strategic weapons. The United States enjoyed a six-year lead in MIRV technology. Only this year did the Soviet Union begin to deploy them.
Will we be more secure with more H-bombs added to the current overkill capacity? Mr. Luttwak grants that only a small number of nuclear weapons would probably suffice to deter an attack on the United States. He then argues that, “The real utility of strategic power must be found in its political value, in guaranteeing the ultimate security of NATO Europe and other allies, formal or informal, against nuclear coercion, and in deterring a much wider range of hostile acts than a purposeless nuclear attack on American cities.” If Robert McNamara’s suggested level of 200-400 H-bombs is accepted as a deterrent against a Soviet attack on the United States, why wouldn’t the vastly greater current levels constitute a deterrent against nuclear coercion or other hostile acts to which a nuclear response might be relevant? Do our political guarantees become more credible the more times we can, in Churchill’s words, “make the rubble bounce”? To apply common sense to these matters, perhaps we need to remind ourselves that we are talking about the prospect of genocide. After all, McNamara’s modest deterrent force could have killed 52 to 74 million Russians in a day.
For the concerned citizen or public official, McGeorge Bundy’s formulation is a valuable guide to reality: “In the real world of real political leaders—whether here or in the Soviet Union—a decision that would bring even one hydrogen bomb on one city of one’s own country would be recognized in advance as a catastrophic blunder; ten bombs on ten cities would be a disaster beyond history; and a hundred bombs on a hundred cities are unthinkable.”
A single Poseidon submarine can drop 160 bombs on 160 cities. When is enough enough?
Haifa-million U.S. troops are today stationed in and off the coasts of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, the Western Pacific, Australia, and Antarctica. What, for example, do the 139,000 Americans in the Western Pacific and the 26,000 in Thailand have to do with either our vital interests or Israeli security? They are a leftover from the Dulles policy of anti-Peking alliances and the Korean and Indochinese wars. Against what threats do they now protect us? Two Presidents have been normalizing relations with Peking, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has asserted that “the Peoples Republic of China has only a limited capability for deploying its forces for any extended distance beyond its border.” These realities do not inhibit Secretary Schlesinger from asserting that we have an interest “in seeing that the other nations of Asia are free to choose their own destinies.” Haven’t we heard that before? What is lacking is a precise and public definition of our vital interests by the government. If that were done, the administration could take the initiatives required to align our military commitments with our interests.
Almost 300,000 American troops are stationed in the NATO area, which is generally agreed to be the most important U.S. interest overseas. But nothing in the NATO treaty stipulates that 300,000 Americans must “maintain the balance” or serve as tripwires guaranteeing a U.S. riposte to a Soviet attack. Perhaps 200,000 or 100,000 would do as well. After all, if the West Europeans really feel threatened they might consider increasing their troop contributions to NATO. And if not, why must the United States finance half-a-million troops and civilian dependents in an arc from Iceland to Turkey?
In any case, the presence of American troops and bases in NATO countries did little to help Israel during the Yom Kippur war. Because of their dependency on Arab oil, the West Europeans refused to permit the use of their ports and bases for shipment of arms to Israel. The one exception was Portugal. Given the present government in power in Lisbon, that cooperation is unlikely in the future. In October 1973, the response of the NATO countries aggravated the problem faced by the planners of the U.S. airlift. The number of cargo planes was plentiful, but refueling facilities were mostly unavailable. Mr. Luttwak makes much of the fact that 22,395 short tons of materiel were airlifted to Israel in 566 missions as compared to 15,000 short tons to the Arab countries in 930 missions. He does not mention that the Soviets equalled the entire tonnage delivered by the U.S. airlift by sending three fully loaded ships into Egyptian ports. However crucial the U.S. airlift in 1973, any repetition in the future seems problematical without a shift in NATO attitudes. Besides, it would be far better to ship the required arms to Israel well in advance of any emergency.
The role of uniformed Americans abroad has expanded as the United States has outsold all competitors in the world arms traffic. U.S. military advisers, as well as employees of private firms, are now training military personnel in 34 countries. The Americans are teaching the foreign nationals how to use and maintain the materiel which the United States is shipping abroad in a swelling torrent. The Defense Department finances these training programs through contracts now worth $727 million. The largest number of training programs are in Iran and Saudi Arabia. Unstated military commitments accompany the weapons. Last October, for example, James McCartney of Knight Newspapers revealed a secret State Department memorandum urging a multibillion-dollar program to rebuild the Saudis’ armed forces. To whose advantage?
Even without changes in foreign policy, billions could be saved every year by reforming the weapons-procurement system. This amazing system offers huge contracts without, in most cases, benefit of low-bid competition, pays contractors on the basis of what they spend rather than what they produce, and rewards inefficiency with more contracts and guaranteed loans. Ex-Pentagon officials and military officers move into the defense firms and negotiate with their buddies who remain on the federal payroll. Professor James R. Kurth of Swarthmore College, who studied the process, found that a new contract is invariably phased in when (1) another is phasing out and (2) sales or employment drop 10 per cent.
Lockheed has long been the top defense contractor. Its C-5 cargo plane has been, as Mr. Luttwak reports disapprovingly, a symbol of Pentagon waste. For good cause. A. Ernest Fitzgerald, then an air force civilian cost analyst, in 1968 exposed the plane’s $2-billion cost overrun. In 1969 he testified that Lockheed had made the wings structurally weak; cracked wings were reported several months later. Defense Secretary Schlesinger now wants another $900 million to patch up the wings of planes bought since 1969. During one six-month period there were 3,827 landing-gear defects in the C-5’s. The first plane built blew up and burned. Designed to carry 100 tons of cargo to unimproved airfields, the C-5’s were allowed to carry only 74 tons to established airports during the Israeli airlift. Eight of the 145 missions aborted. Fitzgerald has asserted that a $400 TV set would cost $8,000 if built at the efficiency level of many defense firms. Why should they care? Their profits increase as they spend more.
Space does not permit me . . . to rebut Mr. Luttwak’s contention that the Pentagon’s purchasing power has been declining. Let me simply observe here that inflation robs not only the Pentagon, whose budget the administration wants to increase, but also the poor, the elderly, and the schoolchildren who are aided by programs the administration wants to cut.
Dwight Eisenhower said it most succinctly: “Every addition to defense expenditures does not automatically increase military security. Because security is based upon moral and economic, as well as purely military strength, a point can be reached at which additional funds for arms, far from bolstering security, weaken it.”
To the Editor:
Edward N. Luttwak’s article opens the door to an issue which can, and indeed should, shake the American Jewish community to its very foundations.
In effect the question of the relationship between Israeli needs and the U.S. defense budget forces the American Jew to make a basic decision as to where his primary national allegiance is to lie. Today the aware Jew . . . is faced with a set of immutable facts, the most crucial of which is that for world Judaism the single most important question is the survival of Israel. In fact, the aware Jew must be a Zionist; and he must know that the opponents of the state of Israel are the enemies of Judaism. . . .
Since there is only one nation in the world which will actively arm the Israelis, it is the American Jew who must bear the full brunt of the contradictory forces at work. The issue simply stated is the following: to a great degree American and Israeli interests coincide. . . . But due to the oil situation, along with other political considerations, American and Israeli interests simply do not coincide 100 per cent. Generally speaking, the Middle East solution most in line with American interests would probably be a settlement imposed and guaranteed by the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Such an agreement would almost certainly come at the expense of Israeli sovereignty and territorial integrity, thus making it a difficult settlement for American Jews, let alone Israelis, to accept. The American Jew is therefore faced with this dilemma: whether to support fully Israeli aims which will indeed at some point run into conflict with the best interests of the U.S., or to support American aims which will at some point run counter to the best interests of Israel. . . .
In terms of the defense budget, then, does one support a huge expenditure which the U.S. can ill afford, but which guarantees the availability of extensive military help to Israel, or does one deem it necessary to put the economic health of the U.S. before the military security of Israel?. . .
S. K. Schwartzman
Brooklyn, New York
To the Editor:
In his fine piece on the American defense establishment, Edward N. Luttwak remarks that George Scratchley Brown was formerly “air force Commander-in-Chief.” The Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. air force during the most recent unpleasantness in the Levant was Richard M. Nixon; General Brown was Chief of Staff. Brown could only achieve the top post by election, succession from a civil post, or coup d’état.
New York City
Edward N. Luttwak writes:
Barry M. Blechman’s major point is that I attacked a target of my own making since those who advocate a 25-30 percent reduction in the defense budget are a “distinct minority.” I am glad to hear this. He then goes on to state a case for reductions of 5-10 per cent, listing a number of possible savings, some of which are plausible. I have no doubt at all that if the Defense Department were managed by men perfect in every way such savings could be achieved with no loss in real combat capabilities. Equally, if some basic structural reforms were feasible, savings with no loss of capability would also be feasible. Unfortunately, the logic of organizations under conditions of stringency militates against innovation and reform. As it is, the radical budgetary surgery that inflation has imposed in the last few years has, it is true, produced forced “savings,” but the effects on managerial efficiency have been negative.
On my supposed error in conjunction with the Rivers Amendment, suffice it to say that to recruit volunteers you must either pay them the going rate or else arrange with OPEC and the Federal Reserve to provide a permanent depression with high unemployment. Hence the 1968 pay equalization law is of little consequence.
To argue with Mr. Blechman on every point he raises would require pages. I would suggest, however, that he should look again at his own paragraph on “forces for Asian contingencies” in the light of what is now happening in Indochina. Is this really the best time to withdraw U.S. military forces from the Pacific? In North Korea there is already a politically bankrupt regime whose greatest ambition is to imitate Hanoi. Do we really want to set the stage for another Asian war?
Charles Britton may be right, if only in part. I suppose the great question is whether the “liberal opinion-making elite” can be reeducated before the current erosion of Western power reaches the point of sheer catastrophe. I for one never imagined that we would be repeating so faithfully the errors of the interwar period.
General Cushman takes issue with my comments on the marine corps. He states that the corps provides three active integrated divisions with organic support, including air, for only 5 per cent of the defense budget. He must agree, however, that this impressive level of efficiency conceals the corps’s dependence on other services for research and development, and it also takes no account of defense overhead costs. I thought that I had made it clear that the integration of marine forces would only make sense in a world of pure efficiency where, among other things, a joint multi-service force would replace the present four-service structure. In our own world, I have no quarrel with the present force structure.
Sanford Gottlieb deploys a barrage of quotations to show that a small fraction of the present array of strategic nuclear forces would be amply sufficient to maintain the strategic balance. His main quotation is McGeorge Bundy’s statement, whose logical meaning is that a strategic force of ten weapons would suffice to deter. Britain already has three very effective submarines with 36 Polaris missiles on board. France is acquiring a force of five boats with 80 missiles, and it also has 18 land-based ballistic missiles. Why then do Britain and France still shelter under the U.S. umbrella? Why are they not recognized as superpowers on an equal footing with the United States and the Soviet Union? Why did Mr. Bundy himself oppose so strongly the deployment of the European nuclear forces on the grounds that small forces were “useless and provocative”?
Mr. Gottlieb repeats the current academic clichés on the subject of “interdependence.” Supposedly a revolution has taken place in international relations by which military power has been displaced by “economic power,” and military issues by economic ones. Those who have been propounding these notions used to define “economic power” in the modern sense, i.e., to describe the whole complex of tangible assets and human attitudes that enabled societies to produce a wide variety of goods and services. This sort of economic power, measured roughly by the GNP, has always been the foundation of military strength, and no dichotomy between the two is valid. European and Japanese intellectuals can be forgiven for having failed to realize until 1973 that the key to their prosperity-without-power was the invisible protection of American military strength. Now that events have revealed the truth to all but Mr. Gottlieb, the theoreticians have quietly redefined “economic power” in terms of natural resources in the soil, on the model of oil. But this very different and primitive notion of economic power is a function of the ability to defend—or seize—the territory which contains resources. It has nothing to do with the general level of skill and industrial discipline of a population and everything to do with military power. In other words, as any good Marxist could have told Mr. Gottlieb, any distinction between military and economic power can only be a mere optical illusion. For example, “pressures from the Third World countries for a larger slice of the global pie” can only be enforced—or resisted—by the force of arms. Or does Mr. Gottlieb think that the common working people of the Western world will hand over the fruits of their own hard work to the dictators of the Third World in response to resolutions at the UN?
Finally, Mr. Gottlieb quotes the celebrated and colorful Ernest Fitzgerald in writing that the Pentagon would need $8,000 budget dollars to procure a $400 TV set. He is quite right. But even the Japanese would charge $8,000 for a TV set built to military specifications to resist shock, blast, EMP, and general rough handling, and procured in lots of 500 according to the slow rhythm of the Congressional budgetary procedure. There is no doubt that the Defense Department could do with better management: concrete proposals, inventions, and cost-saving techniques would be very welcome.
S. K. Schwartzman concludes his letter by posing a false dilemma. Where is the “huge defense budget which the U.S. can ill afford”? Even in a depressed economy, the fiscal 1976 request amounts to 5.8 per cent of GNP. Why on earth should this endanger the “economic health of the U.S.”? The Soviet Union with a much lower GNP per capita is cheerfully spending at least 9 per cent of its GNP, and very probably more. Jordan, not the wealthiest nation in the world, is spending in excess of 15 per cent and enjoying rapid growth. The United States itself spent 8.3 per cent of the GNP in 1964 (pre-Vietnam) with no ill effects; 5.8 per cent or even 7 per cent (which is what should be spent in these disordered times) is anything but excessive for the American economy. Historically, societies have rarely survived for long in a hostile environment while allocating such a small proportion of their resources for their security.