Anyone seeking a blueprint for a sensible restructuring of the U.S. military establishment in the post-Cold War era will not find it in the $291 billion defense budget passed Friday by Congress.
There are, to be sure, some signs of what Mikhail S. Gorbachev would call "new thinking." Most dramatic is the House-initiated decision to stall production of B-2 bombers beyond the 15 already authorized. Congress hedged, however, by providing $1.8 billion to keep production lines open and $1.6 billion for research on stealth technology. Thus, the Senate Armed Services Committee will have another opportunity to find a credible mission for this costly stealth aircraft now that little need is seen for a penetration bomber, invisible to enemy radar, to fly into Soviet air space.
If the cutback on the B-2 was a victory for the House Armed Services Committee, its Senate counterpart essentially had its own way in pushing ahead with a missile defense system to deal with limited ballistic strikes against U.S. territory. The measure sets a 1996 target date for a project in Grand Forks, N.D., calling for 100 ground-based intercepters that would be battle-managed by space-based sensors. Funds also were provided for research on space-based intercepters, along with instructions for negotiating changes in the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to permit deployment of a pared-down "Star Wars" system. As is the case with the B-2, however, no convincing scenario is offered either on the threats to be combated or the military missions to be accomplished.