The cost of equipping U.S. forces in Europe to repel a surprise Warsaw pact attack without giving up any West German territory would be about $30 billion in increased defense spending over the next few years, the Pentagon estimates.
The Pentagon estimate is a response to a report prepared in March by Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.). Aspin conlcuded the cost of beefing up U.S. forces to meet a surprise attack without initially surrendering large chunks of West Germany would be $46.4 billion.
The Defense Department's response did not say Aspin had overcalculated the level of effort needed, but said about 35 per cent of the expenditures he included in his analysis are already programmed for future defense budgets.
Calling the idea of refusing to concede any West German territory the product of a "Maginot Line mentality," Aspin said. "To spend $30 billion or more to defend every blade of grass against a remote threat is a nonsense strategy and a gross misapplication of the taxpayers' dollars."
Aspin's salvo is the latest indication that within the corridors of the Pentagon there is renewed hot debate, characterized by the adroit use of leaks to the press, over the best response to what is perceived as a growing threat to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization from the Warsaw Pact.
In November, two members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Dewey F. Bartlett (R-Okla.), returned from a two-week trip to Europe with warnings that NATO needed a major shift in strategy, including the positioning of more troops and ammunition closer to the Soviet border.
More recently. The New York Times, quoting a "senior White House official," reported that U.S. attacks on Soviet positions outside Europe would force the Soviets to retreat from any territory they gained in Germany during an invasion.
Still later, columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak reported then-secret details of a presidential strategy paper which they alleged concedes up to one-third of West Germany's territory during the initial phases of an attack.
Aspin said yesterday that the problem with the approaches advanced by Nunn and Bartlett and by Evans and Novak is that they "jump to a conclusion that we must beef up our forces without looking either at the costs or the alternatives."
Aspin said U.S. defense analysts have looked at four alternatives for responding to a Warsaw Pact attack: mounting a defense at the German border; falling back and counter-attacking pact forces on the soil they gained in a first attack; using tactical nuclear weapons, or attacking Soviet installations outside Europe.
Aspin said he prefers the fourth alternative.