The United States must send strong, clear --and sustained--signals to the Soviet Union about our national security resolve, and that is why we need to redirect the focus on the defense budget.

If we do this, if we ensure that our nation has a realistic deterrent, we can increase strategic and conventional readiness, and avoid overwhelming "out year" expenditures that will tax congressional and public staying power.

As we face major changes in the makeup of the leadership of the Soviet Union, I am concerned about the dual problems of security in the world in which we will live and the extraordinary threat posed by nuclear weapons.

The zero nuclear policy advocated by President Reagan last fall on intermediate nuclear forces in Europe was a major start toward responsible arms control negotiations. A worldwide zero nuclear option with adequate verification should now be our goal in all arms control negotiations--the freeze- now option is dangerous.

The principal strategic needs of the United States and the West have little to do with a multiplicity of nuclear weapons systems. This is particularly true inasmuch as I am confident that our missile-firing submarines will remain invulnerable through this century. New fiber optic detective systems and other breakthroughs may make attack submarines vulnerable during this period because of the speeds they are required to travel. This is not the case with ballistic- missile-firing submarines because of their different operational requirements.

Our principal defense needs in this decade have instead to do with such requirements as the ability to keep open the sea and air links of the alliance, the ability to hold ground without resort to nuclear weapons, and the ability to project and sustain power at great distance.

The general perception of the current Defense Department and of many Americans seems different. Multiple nuclear weapons systems are accorded highest priority and are seen to be central to military strength. Nothing could be further from reality. This is a bad misconception.

The security of the United States, the Western alliance and the Free World deeply concerns me. The United States and its allies must take the lead to provide and maintain a realistic deterrent and usable military strength in the service of freedom.

In the long run, the danger of nuclear war can be averted only by serious negotiation with the Soviet Union for reductions in nuclear weapons of all kinds to zero. These weapons of mass destruction may be important for political purposes, but they are useless for military purposes. They do increase enormously the dangers of military confrontation.

Our true strategic military needs have little to do with nuclear weapons except to deter their use against us. These needs have much to do with the fact that America and its allies are a far-flung array of nations, separated by distance and by oceans. The Warsaw Pact, in contrast, dominates the heartland of Eurasia. It follows that we must be able to keep open the sea and air links that bind together the alliance, to hold ground on the borders of Europe and elsewhere, and to project and sustain power at great distance. None of these objectives requires nuclear weapons.

It is essential that we recognize and support the increased emphasis given defense in allocation of resources. But this emphasis is seriously misdirected in giving priority to nuclear weapons systems. We need instead to focus on quality people, on usable military technology, on operations and maintenance and on coherent military organization. If we are not prudent in our defense buildup, we will lay the basis for a defense let-down.