A story in the Dec. 25 issue used the wrong terminology in listing the percentages of U.S. and U.S.S.R. "missiles" that could be destroyed if one of the superpowers attacked the other. The term "ballastic missile warheads" should have been used instead. Since most U.S. multi-warhead missiles are on submarines, the mistake in terminology overstates U.S. capability and understated Soviet capabilities.
A House Armed Services Committee member's study concluding that the Soviet Union could destroy most of the U.S. land-based nuclear missile force by the mid 1980's is innacurate and misleading, according to the committee member who developed the data base used in the study.
Last week, Rep. Samuel Stratton (D-N.Y.) announced that a committee staffer's analysis showed that U.S. ICBMs are vulnerable to Soviet attack now, and will become more vulnerable during the next decade.
Stratton's analysis was based on a chart that appeared in an article in the fall 1976 issue of Foreign Policy magazine. The article and chart were done by Rep. Thomas J. Downey (D-N.Y.) and Robert Sherman, a weapons expert who works for Downey and another congressman.
Last week, Sherman and his other employer, Rep. Robert Carr (D-Mich.) said Stratton had misinterpreted and changed the chart in fomulating his study.
Specifically Carr said, Stratton underestimated the accuray of U.S. missiles, overestimated the ability of Soviet missile silos to resist attack, and overestimated the yield and accuracy of Soviet missiles.
In fact, Carr said, the Soviet Union is far more vulnerable to the United States that the United States is to the Soviets. The United States could destroy 82 per cent of Soviet missiles using only 43 per cent of U.S. missiles, he said, while the Soviet Union would have to use 71 per cent of its missiles to knock out 37 per cent of the U.S. ICBMs.
"We hear a great deal of talk about the growing vulnerability of our INCBMs," said Carr. "The fact is, the Soviet ICBMs are as vulnerable rght now as ours will be in the early 1980s."
What it all means is this: if Stratton was right, the U.S. emphasis in strategic arms talks on limiting the numbers of missiles and warheads is meaningless unless the yields and accuracies of the weapons are also considered; if Carr is right, limits on the numbers and yields of missiles are enough to safeguard the United States for the foreseeable future.
Stratton has consistently been a hardliner on nuclear negotiations with the Soviets. Carr and Downey are equally consistent advocates of limiting the nuclear arms race.