Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), a critic of administration arms policies, yesterday emulated President Reagan's audiovisual technique in an attempt to prove that the United States does not trail the Soviet Union militarily.
Escalating what some of his aides jokingly called "Chart Wars," Levin produced a series of brightly colored graphs illustrating U.S. strengths in missiles, ships and military spending.
"The administration has attempted--through the one-sided, distorted statements that we're behind in everything--to create that atmosphere of panic," Levin told a news conference in a Senate conference room. "The Soviet Union has moved ahead very, very strongly--but so have we."
Levin's blue-red-and-yellow charts resembled the graphs Reagan displayed during a televised speech last fall, but conveyed a sharply contrasting message. The president's charts, designed to bolster his pitch for the now-abandoned "Dense Pack" basing mode for the MX missile, illustrated his contention that the Soviet Union was spending much more than the United States for troops and weapons.
"The combination of the Soviets spending more and the U.S. spending proportionately less changed the military balance," Reagan said in his Nov. 22 speech. "Today, in virtually every measure of military power, the Soviet Union enjoys a decided advantage."
Levin yesterday took issue with that statement, releasing a pamphlet he called "The Other Side of the Story," which showed the United States leading in more than two dozen categories of ships, planes and weapons systems.
Levin said that top U.S. military officials have testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, of which he is a member, that they would not swap overall defense capability with the Soviet Union.
Levin said Reagan's charts were accurate but incomplete, designed to boost support for the president's program of large increases in military spending. Where Reagan showed the Soviets spending more than the United States on defense in the past decade, for example, Levin showed the United States spending more than the Soviet Union when the contributions of allies are included.
Levin also claimed, citing Defense Department and Library of Congress statistics, that the United States leads in nuclear warhead production, aircraft carriers and--again with its allies included--troop strength and naval cruisers and destroyers. He acknowledged that the United States trails in many other categories, such as land-based nuclear missiles, but said this country should not necessarily correct every imbalance.
"We should try to get ahead where it gives us military advantage," he said. "We should not try to do everything they do, if what they do doesn't make sense militarily or economically."
Levin said he hoped his charts would influence the congressional debate on the fiscal 1984 defense budget. Reagan originally sought more than a 10 percent increase, after inflation, over this year's budget, while Levin said he believes a 3 percent increase is sufficient.