We need steady increases in defense spending over a long period of time. President Reagan's defense budget may undermine what remains of the national consensus for such spending.
I favor annual real increases in defense spending of about 5 percent. I would be willing to spend more if persuaded that such spending would serve a coherent strategy.
But the president is not persuasive. He wants to spend too much too fast, has no priorities and has no strategy.
He stresses strategic and other weapons purchases. I would stress improving our conventional forces. And I would maintain the current number of troops in Europe.
I would cancel the B1 bomber, put cruise missiles on our B52s and speed up work on the Stealth bomber . I would not deploy the MX missile. A smaller, cheaper, land-based alternative may be available. And the Trident II submarine missile promises to be equally accurate. I would support Trident and modernize communications, command and control.
We may eventually need 600 ships. But, recalling the Falklands war, we should review the wisdom of building large new carriers. We should slow spending on some other surface ships and cancel the F18. We should build more and smaller submarines and more F15s and F16s.
Some other proposed weapons may not be needed. Yet, to control long-term spending, we must also examine the rising costs of entry-level pay and retirement. We need an affordable program of voluntary military and non-military national service that offers substantial educational benefits to compensate for reduced entry-level pay.