Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), a respected moderate likely to be influential in the coming Senate debate on SALT, yesterday outlined an expensive program of military expansion that he said the country must pursue with or without a new strategic arms limitation treaty.
In a speech to the National Chamber of Commerce, Nunn indicated that he could vote for SALT II, but said it should be accompanied by accerlerated acquisition of planes, ships, intercontinental nuclear weapons, shorter-range nuclear weapons and conventional forces, plus more research and development for future weapons systems.
Nunn said the United States also needs improved capacity to analyze foreign intelligence, more help in defense from Japan and North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies, and an early return to the military draft.
Nunn's speech could be read as a summary list of items he and likeminded Senate colleagues may demand as the price of their support for SALT II.
The steps he proposed, Nunn said, "are essential to our national security, and in no instance can any forseeable arms control agreement, including SALT, provide an adequate substitute for them."
Nunn argued that, to make arms control agreements meaningful, the United States must keep pace with the Soviet Union's defense program.
"We have not competed effectively with the Soviet Union in the military arena. Unless we and our allies are prepared to do so, we can expect future arms control agreements with Moscow to do little more than ratify an emerging Soviet military superiority," he said.
"On the other hand, if the free world makes it clear by its actions that it will not allow the Soviets to gain military superiority, arms control becomes . . . a feasible and sensible element of our national security . . . "
Nunn noted President Carter's assertion in a speech last week that "Americans are committed to maintaining a strong defense."
"If the president means that the American people are prepared to make sacrifices to counter the growing Soviet military threat in response to strong leadership in Washington, I agree with him," Nunn said.
"If, however, the president means by the word 'maintaining' that the present military balance and trends within it are an acceptable foundation for our nation's future security, I respectfully disagree."
Nunn offered these proposals for improving U.S. military capabilities:
A greater investment in strategic bombers and submarine-launched balistic missiles and new steps to protect land-based ballistic missiles from attack.
Modernization of nuclear forces in Europe, including deployment of the neutron bomb, ground-launched cruise missiles and additional medium-range ballistic missiles if the Soviet Union does not limit its weapons deployment against Europe.
Strengthening of conventional forces in Europe and the Pacific, with increased contributions from NATO countries and Japan.
Acceleration of the Navy's shipbuying to introduce "larger numbers of ships which take advantage of the latest maritime technologies."
Investment of "substantially more resources" in basic research and development.
"An alternative to the all-volunteer force." Nunn asked whether a democracy can defend itself "when the lowest economic groups are vastly overrepresented in the combat arms and middle- and upper-class America are increasingly exempt from the possibility of sacrifice for our nation."
Also yesterday, a group of Republican senators complained to reporters at a luncheon about administration officials who have begun to promote SALT II even though it has not yet been signed, and specifically about the role of CIA Director Stansfield Turner in the selling of SALT.
Sen. Malcolm Wallop (R-Wyo.) said it was "awesomely wrong" to use Turner in a role that could be interpreted as partisan. Several other senators at the lunch agreed with Wallop's criticism.
An agency spokesman said yesterday that Turner has never made a speech supporting SALT, and has taken a middle role, providing information about the treaty when asked.
At his news conference yesterday, President Carter said he had never asked Turner to make a speech on behalf of SALT and added: "I happen to know that he's basically in favor of the SALT treaty."
Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa.) predicted that the SALT debate would become "a referendum on the Carter administration," and he criticized Carter for defending the treaty "before he knows" what is in it.