|I know of no one -- absolutely no
one -- who is in favor of inadequate defense spending. We all recognize
the need for a ready and capable defense. That's the easy part. It is far
more difficult to determine what level and mix of spending makes for an
adequate and sufficient defense.
Approaches vary -- and confound.
Last March, the Administration proposed outlays
of $188.2 billion for defense in 1982 -- an increase of $26.7 billion over
1981 spending. Last fall, however, the Administration proposed to reduce
its own request by $2 billion in an effort to trim the deficit for this
year. Now, the Administration is preparing a defense budget for 1983. The
President is expected to ask for a 15 percent hike -- a 7 percent increase
after subtracting for inflation.
A recent Pentagon study shows the Reagan plan
requiring another $750 billion in defense spending over the next five years,
atop the $1.5 trillion already projected by the Joint Chiefs of
Everyone in Congress recognizes the need for a
stronger defense. So does the public, according to opinion polls. But reality
is not always a handmaiden to the wish. On the one hand, people want more
defense spending. On the other, they want lower taxes and a smaller federal
deficit. It is left to Congress to somehow reconcile this whipsaw of public
opinion. And there is another piece to the puzzle -- something I call the
"backyard syndrome." While everyone may recognize the need for a given
weapon or military base, no one wants it in their backyard.
At the outset of World War II, it was difficult
to find Americans who quarreled about the location of air bases, army posts,
submarine ports, ammunition dumps or just about anything that had to do
with the war effort. There was a "clear and present danger," and a unified
country didn't quibble. If the government decided to build some sort of
installation near a city, folks said that was fine, because we've got to
win this war and let's do whatever it takes. That was that.
That kind of mobilization was not without domestic
risk, and even accidents. As the Air Corps worked around the clock to turn
out new pilots, there were crashes. Most were kept away from population
centers, but a few were not. There were accidents at ammunition depots,
aboard munitions trains, in defense plants. But in the face of a common
threat, there was unity of purpose. What had to be done, had to be done.
Americans today seem at cross-currents with themselves.
When Davis-Monthan Air Force Base began operating,
it was considered far from the City of Tucson and nobody seemed to mind
much what went on "out there." As the years passed and local officials
okayed plan after plan that allowed homes to be built virtually right up
to the air base fence, there came a sudden cry: "What's this air base doing
in the middle of a big city, anyway?"
We've had a long, agonizing debate in Southern
Arizona about military overflights of Tucson and a few smaller communities.
The debate reached a crescendo following the tragic crash of a jet fighter
near the University of Arizona in 1978. Trying to work out new air traffic
patterns acceptable to all parties has been one of the thorniest problems
I've faced in years.
I would venture a guess that a good many hard-working,
conscientious folks who would agree that we need a strong national defense,
might also tell me in no uncertain terms that they want no Air Force jets
flying low over their homes. The air base is fine, they might say, but
can't we put it somewhere else?
We see another developing concern involving the
|missile. When the Titan II came to
town back in the early 1960s, there were voices of protest. But the circle
of missiles would be so far away from the city, the voices were overruled,
and the missiles were put in place on schedule.
In the decade or so that followed, the march of
immigrants that has swollen Tucson has moved, slowly, closer and closer
to the Titan silos. Last fall, when the Reagan Administration proposed
to replace the Titans with the MX, the volume of complaints was heavy.
My mail, in fact, ran 2 to 1 against placing the MX in the Titan sites.
It's a familiar story: we're all in favor of a strong national defense,
but we don't want the MX in our backyard. Put it somewhere else.
In this instance, the Administration solved the
problem for us. The deployment of the initial 40 MX missiles will not,
in all likelihood, be placed in the Titan silos near Tucson. But if we
want the MX, it has to go somewhere.
There are probably dozens of similar examples
throughout the country, and there are new ones born every year. On the
one hand, we see people adamant and determined that we launch a defense
build-up, and on the other, that virtually nothing be built or based near
where they live.
Most of these concerns are heartfelt, sincere
and honest. No one wants to live with the possibility of an airplane coming
through the roof or pieces of a missile landing in the front yard (as happened
when a Titan silo exploded last year in Arkansas).
But the push for new defense spending and the
reluctance to accept military hardware as a neighbor does tie us in a knot.
We can't very well build new weapons systems if no one wants them nearby,
for they must be near something.
It's a bit reminescent of the story about the
man who had his coat stolen in a restaurant. As a policeman drew his gun
and gave chase, the man yelled, "Shoot him in the pants!"
* * * *
All of us may have legitimate doubts about a given
weapon deployment scheme. I opposed the multiple-point basing setup for
the MX that would have imposed a nuclear racetrack on Nevada and Utah.
I did so, however, on the basis of national security considerations as
well as my regional interest in the Southwest. In the case of Southern
Arizona, we already had the Titans. Secondly, I believed then and believe
now that the MX would be more effective aboard submarines than based on
Difficult as it may be, there are times when the
national interest requires that something or other be in our "backyard."
We should work to minimize human inconvenience or danger, and on closer
examination, we might even find other, more appropriate sites. But we have
to be prepared to accept the fact that a sound balancing of interests may
require nearby placement of a weapon or a base.
"Spending more for defense" can't mean much until
we get down to what it is we are spending for. No member of a family
would say, "Let's spend more on ourselves next year," without getting into
a rather detailed discussion of exactly what it was they thought they needed,
could use, wanted -- and could afford. Likewise, increasing the defense
budget is meaningless unless we take a careful look at what it is we need
-- and determine what we can afford.
My friend and colleague in the Senate, Gary Hart
of Colorado, put it well when he said. "Indiscriminate calls for more defense
spending make no more sense than indiscriminate efforts to cut military
budgets. We must stop