The federal government yesterday raised sharply its stockpile goals for strategic materials like titanium, tungsten and rubber, reflecting the Carter administration's belief that the chance has increased of fighting a major conventional war.
"These higher goals reflect a hypothetical defense budget if the United States became engaged in a major conventional war," Paul Kreuger, acting assistant associate director of resource preparedness for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said at a press conference yesterday. "These goals reflect stockpiles that would be needed to fight a three-year war."
The new stockpile goal for titanium was set at 195,000 tons, up 50 percent from the old goal of 130,000 tons. Stronger than steel and half as heavy, titanium is used to make jet engines and almost all the structural parts of high speed jet aircraft where light weight and resistance to heat are major factors.
Noting there now are only 31,000 tons of titanium in the nation's stockpile, Kreuger complained that Congress had cut FEMA's budget the last two years to where it was unable to make titanium purchases to increase the stockpile.
"Congress was about two years late in appropriating money for the titanium startup program," Kreuger said. "We should have had that money years ago so we'd be in a position now to make major purchases for the stockpile."
Tungsten requirements also jumped from 41.4 million pounds to 50.66 million pounds, an increase of almost 20 per cent. Again, the need to maintain a higher wartime footing was cited as the reason for the new goal.
Kreuger explained that tungsten's main defense use is in tungsten carbide, which is used to make high velocity armor piercing shells. He said the higher tungsten goal will permit the Pentagon to shift to depleted uranium for the same kinds of shells.
"This is a non-radioactive material that's very heavy," Kreuger said.
Rubber requirements also rose, by two thirds, from 513,000 tons to 850,000 tons. One reason is dwindling rubber stocks, another is changing technology that requires more natural rubber in aircraft tires, tank treads and heavy off-road equipment tires.
Three other materials showing sharp rises in stockpile goals are bismuth, iodine and opium.
Bismuth, which is used in solders and low-melting fusable alloys, went from 771,000 pounds to 2.2 million pounds. Iodine rose from 3.33 million pounds to 5.8 million pounds and opium went up from 75,000 pounds to 130,000 pounds.
Kreuger said the reason for the rise in iodine goals is its short supply.
"Our opium requirements are based on estimates for pain-killing drugs in the aftermath of a nuclear attack," Kreuger said. "Our old goals were based on population estimates that are 10 to 15 years old."