It's clear that the American people will spend much more on defense in the 1980s. It is not clear that they will be better defended.

An effective American military policy must be based on a through revision of our strategy, doctrine and officer education before we purchase massive quantities of equipment. Such a revision hasn't taken place since the end of World War II.

If spending money were the primary requirement for a successful defense, then Andre Maginot would have been the most successful defense minister in modern history. Instead, because Maginot focused first on concrete and equipment rather than on strategy and doctrine, his name became synonymous with failure in defense policy.

Contrast this with the legacy of Elihu Root, the American secretary of war in 1899. Root, searched for solutions to the military's inefficiencies and created the American General Staff system, which proved effective during World War I and, according to Trever Dupuy, the military historian, was the major ingredient in the rapid expansion of the U.S. Army in World War II.

Historically, victory is based on leadership, the power of strategic ideas, and the ability of a well-organized team to use available weapons to heighten its advantages over its opponent, and to lower its opponent's ability to respond. Root knew that.

But our present defense establishment rests its hope for a secure America on more things, just as Maginot did, rather than on the power and guidance of better ideas.

Military leaders lack a sense of the organic wholesness of their task. And the military's masters -- Congress, the White House and the people -- intensify the problem by sharing in and encouraging that misconception.

Congressmen normally debate weapons systems, or the parts, as though they were fundamental: this tank versus that tank, this plane versus that plane, etc. But the central question is not what kind of equipment you give the troops but what you expect them to accomplish with it.

Understanding that the military problem is organic rather than mechanical allows you to see how the parts interrelate, and how they support the overall purpose that bring them together. The organic approach also permits the military to coherently grow over time and gives it a self-sustaining sense of purpose that helps it adapt flexibly to a changing environment.

The most important contribution of the organic approach is its emphasis on people and ideas rather than machines. Trained men with the right strategy can readily and more repidly shape and adapt to a changing environment.

It takes 10 years or more to create a field grade officer who can command in battle. And it takes years of practice and training to group soldiers into a cohesive fighting force. The keys to success in war are the quality of the leaders and the skill of the troops, particularly the skill of the NCOs.

History is replete with examples of small, well-trained armies that used the right doctrine to defeat huge forces that were less cohesive and used the wrong doctrine. The best examples are the Mongols under Genghis Khan, the Wehrmacht under Guderian in 1940, and the Israeli army in 1967 and 1973.

The grave danger we face is not that the Soviet Union has more men under arms, or that they spend more than we do, or that they have more equipment. The danger is that the Soviet officer corps has begun to be better trained intellectually, more deeply steeped in history, and is asking the right questions about war.

The Reagan administration and Congress are about to make decisions that will shape the military well into the next country. You buy military hardware for a lifetime, not for one congressional term. And that is why now is the moment to begin our doctrinal reexamination.

Across-the-board programs to remedy the obsolescence of our military hardware are not yet in full swing. Therefore, we can rethink what we expect to do in war before we are locked into new systems that are supported by and support old concepts. Five years from now, it will be too late to rethink what we expect to do in future wars.

Those of us who are conservative and frightened for America's survival understand the danger of understanding. We have shouted from the rooftops that America is in danger, and America has heard and understands.

But there is a grave and even greater danger that America must now see with equal clarity. If we buy the wrong weapons systems because we have an inadequate strategy, and we attempt to use those systems with an ill-prepared officer corps, we may think that we are safe when, in fact, we aren't. As the French learned in 1940, there can be no greater delusion.