Peacetime Defense Spending

April 12, 1974

Report Outline
Military Spending in Post-Vietnam Era
Growth of the Defense Establishment
Prospects for Cutting Defense Costs
Special Focus

Military Spending in Post-Vietnam Era

Schlesinger's View Versus Kissinger's on Detente

Anew national debate is developing over the promise or peril of detente with Russia as it relates to this country's nuclear arsenal. The debate is being brought to public view by a new defense budget and a new secretary of defense, James R. Schlesinger. He is challenging decade-old assumptions about the adequacy of America's nuclear deterrent—even the prevailing concept of how to achieve deterrence.

The defense budget for fiscal 1975, beginning this July 1, presents the highest spending request ($85.8 billion) that Congress has ever received, either in time of war or peace. While many defense items other than nuclear weaponry account for the added costs, the new budget does represent Schlesinger's views. He contends that while this country was spending billions of dollars fighting a war in Vietnam, Russia was undertaking an intensive weapons development program which lessened and in some instances overcame America's strategic superiority. He also points to a stream of sophisticated Soviet arms supplied to the Arabs during their war with Israel last October and speaks of a Russian naval buildup in the Indian Ocean. There can be no detente, he insists, unless this country maintains at least a military “equilibrium” with the Soviet Union.

Schlesinger has repeatedly stressed this view in testimony before Congress on the new budget. “We must continue to build our peace structure on the hard facts of the international environment rather than on gossamer hopes for the instant perfectibility of mankind,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee Feb. 5. Schlesinger, as a proponent of the so-called “hard line,” is often contrasted with Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, who has been the Nixon administration's principal architect of detente with Russia.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Defense Budget
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