Claiming that the Carter administration "is still unwilling to recognize the consequences for the United States of the Soviet push for military superiority," a panel of former top national security officials is recommending a $260 billion increase in defense spending over the next six years.
These ex-officials argue that U.S. military strength in comparison to the Soviet Union's is inadequate to support traditional U.S. interests abroad, let alone the new Carter pledge to defend the Persian Gulf.
"In our judgment," former undersecretary of state Eugene V. Rostow told reporters, "the situation is unstable and accelerating . . . and cannot wait until after the election" to be addressed by the public and Congress.
Though the increase proposed would provide funding about one-quarter higher than the proposed trillion-dollar five-year defense plane put forward by the White House, former deputy secretary of Defense Paul H. Nitze says the $260 billion extra is "the absolute minimum required to make President Carter's warnings to the Soviet Union credible."
Rostow and Nitze both spoke on behalf of The Committee on the Present Danger, a nonpartisan group that worries about what it views as unfavorable trends in the U.S.-Soviet balance of power and has had some influence in the past on debates in this country over arms treaties with Moscow.
The panel's major recommendations include:
Adding five active U.S. Army divisions to the present 16 so the United States would have rapidly deployable forces without taking away strength from forces already committed to Europe, Japan and South Korea.
Adding 127 ships to the Navy, creating 650-ship fleet so the United States can have a Navy able to operate in three oceans plus a permanent persence in the troubled Caribbean Sea. They argue the present Indian Ocean crisis has put a dangerous and intolerable strain on the current fleet.
Adding nine new wings -- about 180 planes -- of Navy and Air Force fighter-bombers, more than 200 new transports for use abroad and doubling the long-range airlift capability.
To man the new divisions and ships, the military would be increased by 302,000 persons, still well below pre-Vietnam 1964 level but enough, they acknowledge, eventually to require reinstating the draft. The proposals also include "an immediate and substantial" pay raise to help keep people in service and to remove disparity with civilian pay.
To bolster the nuclear balance, they call for two additional Trident missile-firing submarines, 100 B1 bombers, 300 newer versions of the existing Minuteman long-range missile and a plan to build more underground silos so that the Minuteman can be made more secure against a Soviet attack by a version of the shell game.