24. Editorial Note
On January 28, 1981, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, meeting in open session, on the fiscal year (FY) 1982 defense authorization request (S. 815). Following opening remarks made by Committee Chair Senator John Tower (R–Texas), Weinberger underscored what he described as a “growing imbalance in our strategic forces,” asserting that “for quite too long a period we have not had, I think, sufficient resources assigned to defense.” After noting the Soviet military buildup that had taken place, while previous administrations had pursued other priorities, he continued: “I think my predecessor summed it up well when Secretary Brown said ‘When we build they build. When we stop they build.’ As long as I am Secretary of Defense I want to assure you starting from the first day in office we will build enough and I hope in time to redress the inferior position that we now occupy. It seems to me that our commitment to build and our actual undertaking of the task is the best way to get the Soviets to stop. What we must do now, I think, is to get on with the job of adding to our military strength as quickly and as efficiently as we can.
“As I mentioned before, I have two highest priorities in rearming America—you might say three. One is to improve the readiness of the forces in being. The second is to redress the imbalances that have developed in our strategic and theater nuclear forces and the third is to make sure that those forces that are ready are indeed modernized and able to be used most effectively. The primary purpose of the military force, of course, is to be able to conduct successfully the missions assigned to it. I am afraid that few, if any, of our potential adversaries will ever be deterred if our ships can’t get underway, or our planes cannot fly, or our front line combat divisions have equipment problems, or if we do not have the lift to move our forces and so on.”
Asserting that the main reason for the nation’s “readiness difficulties” was the “lack of skilled people,” Weinberger argued the need for better military compensation. He continued: “I think readiness can be increased by providing more funds for spare parts, training and consumables. These are not very glamorous items, not very strong constituencies behind them, but they are enormously important and they will receive a lot of emphasis from our administration. With respect to the highest priority, increasing the level of investment in the strategic area, I think that it is essential to begin and begin now because the rest of the world, our allies as well as non-aligned countries and potential adversaries, count on and look first of all to the United States to maintain that strategic nuclear balance and, in the case of adversaries, look constantly to see whether we are continuing to do so. If these nations [Page 89] detect any weakening in the United States resolve to maintain that strategic umbrella, they either accommodate themselves to the dominant strategic power or the dominant strategic power will receive too much encouragement from our failure to maintain the balance.
“It becomes also very difficult, if not impossible, for us to employ or risk using our conventional forces—or to conduct diplomacy successfully—if we do not have any kind of satisfactory and correctly perceived satisfactory nuclear strategic balance. An enhanced nuclear posture also offers our best hope of negotiating a meaningful arms control agreement with the Soviet Union. We must negotiate with the Soviets from a position of strength and I am confident that as we improve our strategic posture we can simultaneously enhance the prospect for a new SALT agreement.”
Weinberger then discussed the administration’s specific spending priorities, his managerial philosophy, his department’s role in the policy making process, and the staffing of his department. He concluded his remarks by asserting: “Working together with you, Mr. Chairman, and your committee, I am confident we can rebuild our defenses with strength and firmness of purpose that cannot be misunderstood by anyone.” (Department of Defense Authorization for Appropriations for Fiscal Year 1982: Hearings Before the Committee on Armed Services, United States Senate, Ninety-Seventh Congress, First Session, on S. 815, Part I, Posture Statement, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, General David C. Jones, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Budget Amendments, January 28, March 4, 1981, pages 10–14)