President Carter rejected part of the Ford administration's strategic nuclear doctrine, changed the future course of the Navy and guaranteed a battle royal with Congress in the way he revised the defense budget.
The revised fiscal 1978 Pentagon budget, calling for $2.8 billion in cuts, went to Congress yesterday just before Carter underlined his intentions by announcing a series of closing bases, actions sure to draw political fire.
Besides carrying out some of the $3 billion to $7 billion cut in the Pentagon budget he advocated during the political campaign, Carter's revisions are designated to slow down construction of several weapons until he has more time to assess their need from both technical and diplomatic standpoints.
Defense Secreatry Harold Brown, in explaining the revised Pentagon budget to reporters on Monday, said development of the MX blockbuster intercontinental ballistic missile has been slowed down for both those reasons.Specifically Carter reduced the MX account from $295 million to $135 million, a $160 million cut.
Brown said there are technical problems associated with making the MX mobile, as Congress has directed, and that it would also be correct to interpret the slowdown as an attempt for improving prospects of both the United States and Soviet Union forgoting the deployment of mobile ICBMs.
American policy long has called for deploying enough strategic nuclear weapons to make sure the United States could inflict unacceptable damage on the aggressor after absorbing a first strike.
In a broadening of that doctrine, former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said last month that "an important mission should be retard significantly the ability of the U.S.S.R. to recover from a nuclear exchange and regain the status of a 20th century military and industrial power more rapidly than the United States."
Brown rejected that rationale Monday, saying that in a "full thermonuclear exchange" damage to both sides would be "so great that afterwards it would be hard to tell what recovery meant . . . adopting a criterion of that sort can lead to almost unlimited expenditures on each side . . ."
In contrast to his rejection of Ford administration strategic doctrine, Carter went his predecessor on better when it came to cutting back the nuclear powered surface Navy.
Not only did Carter adopt former President Ford's recommendation against building any more Nimitz class, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, but he killed the nuclear powered strike cruiser as well, saving $187 million earmarked for it in the fiscal 1978 budget.
Unless Congress reverses the Carter decision, the Navy will have to scuttle its current carriers and strike cruisers armed with the latest air defense. The Navy had hoped to build eight strike cruisers with the Aegis antiaircraft system now in the testing stage.
Besides forcing a change of direction on the surface Navy Carter's cut in the fiscal 1978 budget hit several defense contractors hard. The Vought Corp. of Dallas, for example, may have been dealt a mortal blow as far as its aerospace future is concerned.
The Carter revisions canceled the planned purchses of Vought's A-7E fighter-bombers, built in Dallas, and the Lance non-nuclear battlefield missle, manufactured in Sterling Heights, Mich.
The Texas congressional delegation, which includes House Majority Leader Jim Wright and Chairman George H. Mahon (D-Tex.) of the House Appropriations Committee, began mobilizing yesterday to restore the cuts in what will be but one of many congressional battles with the White House this year over defense economies.
The Navy last night announced 11 base consolidations and closings, including deactivating the Naval Electronic System Engineering Center here and transferring its functions to other Navy facilities. The Air Force is preparing to take a similiar actions.