A "clear and present danger to out national security," exacerbated by the defense policies of the Carter administration, makes it inadvisable for the Senate to approve the SALT II treaty at this time, former president Gerald R. Ford is to declare today.
In remarks prepared for delivery at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., Ford blames President Carter for permitting a dangerous shift in the Soviet-American military balance, and says SALT II will be in the national interest only after the U.S. has taken strong moves to improve defenses.
The text of Ford's remarks was made available to The Washington Post for publication on today's opposite editorial page.
Ford acknowledges that terms of the SALT II treaty grew out of agreements reached during his administration, but says the abandonment of certain defense programs endorsed by him has left the United States too weak to risk entering into the treaty now.
Specifically, Ford says, he would endorse favorable Senate action on SALT II sometime "well into next year" only if Congress has voted a 5 percent increase after inflation in the defense budget for 1980. The Carter administration has proposed a similar increase for 1981, but is holding to a 3 percent increase for 1980.
There is no prospect at the moment that Ford's conditions will be met by Congress or the White House, so they amount to a recommendation that the Senate reject or shelve the arms pact. Several Republican sources speculated yesterday that Ford's remarks are further indication that he is considering another run for the presidency in 1980.
In his prepared remarks, Ford does not mention the flap about Soviet combat troops in Cuba -- the issue that has arisen suddenly in recent weeks and cast serious doubts on SALT's prospects in the Senate.
Instead, Ford concentrates on the balance of power. His speech is carefully drafted, and includes many friendly references to the SALT "process" and to the contents of this SALT treaty. But Ford's message can be summarized with these words from his prepared text:
"Can America be certain of her strength today and during the next decade? My answer, frankly, is no."
Ford echoes the testimony of his former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, who told the senate last summer that the SALT treaty was acceptable, but only if accompanied by increased defense spending and a tougher American policy toward the Soviets. But Ford emphasizes that he is not for the treaty if conditions are met, but rather opposed to it until his specific and expensive conditions are satisfied.
The former president repeatedly says that his administration had initiated or endorsed major defense programs that would have enhanced American security, but which the Carter administration has abandoned.
"The present administration's budgets for the years 1978 to 1983 have fallen behind my proposals by $66 billion in the critical area of military procurement alone. That difference averages out to over 21 percent a year," Ford asserts.
Ford says he entered into the Vladivostak SALT accords in 1975 "in full expectation of a significantly stronger American strategic posture than that was actually in effect or programmed when this SALT II treaty was signed."
Specifically, Ford says, he then anticipated "deployment of our MX missile in 1983, deployment of the B1 bomber commencing this year with a production rate of four per month, strong land-, sea- and air-based cruise missile programs, and accelerated Trident (submarine) program with the first boat to be deployed this year . . ."
Carter administration officials can be expected to dispute these contentions, noting for example that they have sharply increased the cruise missile program since Ford left office.
Ford is critical of the SALT II pact on three counts. He says he does not like the treaty's protocol, which puts restrictions on land- and sea-based cruise missiles until the end of 1981. He also criticizes the provision that prohibits encoding of radio signals from test missiles that are relevant to the treaty, charging that this is a vague formulation and might allow the Soviets to cheat.
Most significantly, he criticizes a central provision of the treaty that limits both countries to a single "new type" land-based missile.
The treaty says both sides cannot modify certain key characteristics of their present missiles by more than 5 percent, except in the case of the one entirely new type permitted. Ford charges that this cannot be verified adequately, and is certain to produce disputes between the United States and the Soviets. "At the worst," Ford says, "it could permit the Soviet Union to deploy five essentially new missiles."
On the positive side, Ford praises limits in the treaty on the number of warheads each country can deploy on rockets, a limitation added to SALT II since Ford left office. He also praises the role SALT can play in stabilizing the arms race, limiting some defense expenditures and "providing a process of dialogue."