While the Reagan administration is focusing its principal attention on the economic program, it is leaving unattended many serious problems in the realm of military policy. I would like to advance a modest proposal for dealing with three such matters in the strategic field. They are:

* how to pay the bill for regaining strategic parity with the Soviets while meeting the legitimate claims of the conventional forces and mollifying the critics of excessive military expenditures;

* how to negotiate a satisfactory arms reduction treaty with the Soviets in the present atmosphere of renewed East-West tensions;

* how to avoid a further arms race if the negotiation fails either to take place or to produce agreement.

My solution is to abandon weapons parity with the Soviets as a national goal and substitute task readiness for it as the measure of the sufficiency of our forces. By so doing, we will reduce weapon requirements, eliminate any need for an arms race and strengthen our position for the occurrence or breakdown of a new round of strategic negotiations.

How to accomplish the foregoing? First, I must ask for at least tentative acceptance of the following assertions:

The justification for the existence of our armed forces is to provide the military means necessary--strategic and conventional--to support national policy against whatever threats may arise from whatever source, but with primary regard to the Soviet Union.

The size, composition, weapons and readiness of the Armed Forces should be determined by the military tasks they are most likely to be asked to perform. Task readiness will decide how much is enough.

The strategic forces, having the single capability of inflicting massive destruction, should have the single task of deterring the Soviet Union from resorting to any form of strategic warfare. To maximize their deterrent effectiveness they must be able to survive a massive first strike and still be able to destroy sufficient enemy targets to eliminate the Soviet Union as a viable government, society and economy responsive to the national leaders who determine peace or war.

Such a target system should include the communications and control network by which the Soviet leadership controls military operations; the conventional forces necessary for frontier defense and internal order; the principal industrial centers that must survive to sustain war and provide some hope for a postwar economic recovery; and such unfired ICBM silos as can be identified following a first strike. To the extent possible, these targets should be restricted to the region where the population is predominantly ethnic Russian in order to limit the damage in the non-Russian republics.

The number of weapons we shall need will be those required to destroy the specific targets within this system of which few will be hardened silos calling for the accuracy and short flight time of ICBMs. As a safety factor, we should add extra weapons to compensate for losses that may be suffered in a first strike and for uncertainities in weapon performance. The total weapons requirement should be substantially less than the numbers available to us in our present arsenal.

So much for my proposal in outline. Now for its justification and advantages.

To begin with, it would give the military budget a solid basis by justifying the existence of the armed forces and their fund requirements in terms of essential tasks to support national policy. Since their size and composition would be determined by these tasks, Soviet numbers would have little relevance and would no longer serve as an excuse for an arms race.

The proposed targeting policy should convince the Soviet leaders of the utter folly of a first strike. They would stand to lose their lives, their sources of power and the results of decades of labor to restore their country from the devastations of World War II. Whatever might

Maxwell D. Taylor

A New Measure for Defense

While the Reagan administration is focusing its principal attention on the economic program, it is leaving unattended many serious problems in the realm of military policy. I would like to advance a modest proposal for dealing with three such matters in the strategic field. They are:

how to pay the bill for regaining strategic parity with the Soviets while meeting the legitimate claims of the conventional forces and mollifying the critics of excessive military expenditures;

how to negotiate a satisfactory arms reduction treaty with the Soviets in the present atmosphere of renewed East-West tensions;

how to avoid a further arms race if the negotiation fails either to take place or to produce agreement.

My solution is to abandon weapons parity with the Soviets as a national goal and substitute task readiness for it as the measure of the sufficiency of our forces. By so doing, we will reduce weapon requirements, eliminate any need for an arms race and strengthen our position for the occurrence or breakdown of a new round of strategic negotiations.

How to accomplish the foregoing? First, I must ask for at least tentative acceptance of the following assertions:

The justification for the existence of our armed forces is to provide the military means necessary--strategic and conventional--to support national policy against whatever threats may arise from whatever source, but with primary regard to the Soviet Union.

The size, composition, weapons and readiness of the Armed Forces should be determined by the military tasks they are most likely to be asked to perform. Task readiness will decide how much is enough.

The strategic forces, having the single capability of inflicting massive destruction, should have the single task of deterring the Soviet Union from resorting to any form of strategic warfare. To maximize their deterrent effectiveness they must be able to survive a massive first strike and still be able to destroy sufficient enemy targets to eliminate the Soviet Union as a viable government, society and economy responsive to the national leaders who determine peace or war.

Such a target system should include the communications and control network by which the Soviet leadership controls military operations; the conventional forces necessary for frontier defense and internal order; the principal industrial centers that must survive to sustain war and provide some hope for a postwar economic recovery; and such unfired ICBM silos as can be identified following a first strike. To the extent possible, these targets should be restricted to the region where the population is predominantly ethnic Russian in order to limit the damage in the non-Russian republics.

The number of weapons we shall need will be those required to destroy the specific targets within this system of which few will be hardened silos calling for the accuracy and short flight time of ICBMs. As a safety factor, we should add extra weapons to compensate for losses that may be suffered in a first strike and for uncertainities in weapon performance. The total weapons requirement should be substantially less than the numbers available to us in our present arsenal.

So much for my proposal in outline. Now for its justification and advantages.

To begin with, it would give the military budget a solid basis by justifying the existence of the armed forces and their fund requirements in terms of essential tasks to support national policy. Since their size and composition would be determined by these tasks, Soviet numbers would have little relevance and would no longer serve as an excuse for an arms race.

The proposed targeting policy should convince the Soviet leaders of the utter folly of a first strike. They would stand to lose their lives, their sources of power and the results of decades of labor to restore their country from the devastations of World War II. Whatever might remain would fall to hostile neighbors, revengeful satellites and the non-Russian elements of their population. The possibility of this ethnic factor as a disincentive was called to my attention by Professor Gary L. Guertner in a recent article, "Strategic Vulnerability of a Multinational State--Deterring the Soviet Union," in Political Science Quarterly.

As a final benefit, the downplay of counterforce targeting would eliminate the need for an MX and possibly for a Trident-2 missile, both required primarily for silo- busting. Their elimination could be cited as further evidence of the absence of a first strike capability among American alternatives.

My modest proposal ends with an immodest Q.E.D. The writer was Army chief of staff in the Eisenhower administration and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. remain would fall to hostile neighbors, revengeful satellites and the non-Russian elements of their population. The possibility of this ethnic factor as a disincentive was called to my attention by Professor Gary L. Guertner in a recent article, "Strategic Vulnerability of a Multinational State--Deterring the Soviet Union," in Political Science Quarterly.

As a final benefit, the downplay of counterforce targeting would eliminate the need for an MX and possibly for a Trident-2 missile, both required primarily for silo- busting. Their elimination could be cited as further evidence of the absence of a first strike capability among American alternatives.

My modest proposal ends with an immodest Q.E.D.