A black, loose-leaf notebook thick with "secret" papers details the longrange hopes of military leaders of the NATO summit meeting opening Tuesday in the Kennedy Center.
The papers describe how the 15 nations in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance, established in 1949, could get "more bang for the buck" to combat the Warsaw Pact forces arrayed against them.
The basic argument is that spending more money on soldiers and weapons will not be enough in the future, even if the ever-changing governments in NATO stick to their pledges to increase defense spending by 3 percent a year.
Instead, contends Robert W. Komer, the Pentagon executive who helped push the notebook into print, NATO research and production from now on must be apportioned among alliance partners from the blueprint stage through production.
Otherwise, in these days when a single fighter plane can cost $25 million and an air-to-air missile $300,000, the alliance has no hope of overcoming with quality the Warsaw Pact's edge in quantity.
Here is nothing new about this theory - the insistence that NATO must develop a common market of weaponry. The difference, in the view of defense leaders who consider this week's summit highly significant, is an unprecedented breadth of agreement that the theory must at last be put into practice.
Cited as the most visible reason for this new sense of urgency is the Warsaw Pact force deployed just across the NATO line - thousands of troops, tanks and artillery.
"The size and capabilities of Warsaw pact forces have developed to the point where no reasonable person could any longer seriously suggestsive," contends Gen. H. F. Zeiner Gundersen of Norway, chairman of NATO's military committee.
However, the Warsaw Pact did not build up its forces overnight, so why the sudden sense of alarm about them? Komer, cheif Pentagon NATO adviser, granted that the threat has been there for years, but said the United States did not respond to it because of its "preoccupation with Southeast Asia."
As for why European nations actually under the gun did not seem to be unduly upset about the Soviet buildup until recently, Komer said: "The Europeans tend to follow the U.S. lead" in NATO.
President Carter, in putting together his first defense budget, made NATO the primary concern by telling military leaders that their programs linked to NATO would be the ones funded. Military leaders gratefully went back to concentrating on the more familiar warfare of Europe, acting as if Vietnam never happened.
As the American military did this about-face, the mood changed perceptibly in Congress. Instead of Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield pushing to take half the 300,000 American troops out of Western Europe, Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) was assailing the White House and Pentagon for not beefing up NATO forces. He warned that NATO forces might have to stop a "flying start" Soviet invasion.
Some military leaders fear that Washington's sudden compulsion to throw money at NATO amounts to investing strength where the Soviets are least likely to test it. Thus, dissenters theorize the Carter administration is concentrating on NATO partly because it does not know what to do about more complex problems, such as Soviet and Cuban adventurism in Afica.
"If we're really worried about the Russians coming across," complained one Army general, "why don't we make NATO a one-year hardship tour and get rid of all the dependents and the infrastructure which would get in the way if war did come?"
Such dissents aside, the heads of state of NATO countries coming to Washingtonthis week will find a NATO-minded adistration as their host, starting with President Carter.
But the old haunting question remains: Will the political statements, communiques and sercet papers of this week's meeting be implemented by NATO countries once their leaders return home?
The Long Term Defense Program (LTDP) now on paper, will provide a key test of commitment. Komer has said that "some have called the current attempt to design a cohesive Long Term Defense Program the boldest and most far-reaching step taken by NATO since the inception of the alliance itself."
The paper plan is broken into 10 sections, ranging from how to get NATO troops more ready for surprise attack to erecting a big air defense umbrella over Europe.
Currently, many units within the alliance cannot talk to each other by radio nor fire each other's ammunition, much less coordinate a defense aganist supersonic Soviet fighters and bombers.
The LTDP is supposed to change all that by developing weapons for use by all NATO countries. For example, under the paper agreement negotiated by defense leaders and to be discussed further by heads of state this week, the United States would design and build the next generation of large antitank missiles, while European NATO partners would design and build small antitanks missiles. All NATO forces would be armed with them.
This would mean U.S. manufactures would lose business to their foreign counterparts. It would also require the U.S. government to share military secrets - such as the latest equipment and techniques for the dark art of electronic warfare. Allies might lose them to Soviet espionage.
Also, an overall NATO deployment and strategy for using this new weaponry will have to be hammered out - a process that has broken down repeatedly during the alliance's 29 year life.
"NATO has been a collection of national postures" rather than a coordinated one for the whole alliance in the pact, said one administration official in pledging the future will be different. The summit meeting will be the launching pad for that pledge.