B-2 and Sea wolfare needed for future

October 19, 1995

YOUR EDITORIAL OF Sept. 27, ''Congress' military spending spree," made a great deal of sense.

The notion that the Pentagon cannot adequately provide for the nation's defense -- despite an annual budget of a quarter of a trillion dollars and despite the absence of urgent overseas threats -- really is absurd.

There is much misallocation of resources in the defense budget, and Congress should do a far better job of controlling it.

However, you err in singling out the B-2 bomber and Seawolf submarine as symbols of waste.

Concerning the Seawolf, it is strongly supported by the Clinton administration, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Navy and Republican leaders of the House and Senate.

One reason for this support is that the third (and last) Seawolf is the first new sub requested since 1991; if it is not approved, U.S. production of operational submarines will cease for the first time in half a century, and rebuilding this very unique capability would prohibitively expensive.

There's another reason for supporting the Seawolf: It is the industrial and technological bridge to a future generation of cheaper but equally advanced subs.

As our future adversaries acquire the ability to track and destroy surface ships, we will become increasingly dependent on submarines to assure control of the seas.

Without such control, our access to the rest of the world would be severely impaired -- a fact that various imperialists, fascists and communists had little difficulty grasping earlier in the century.

In the case of the B-2, we are faced with the gradual erosion of both our overseas basing structure and our long-range bomber fleet.

Without access to bases, most of the Air Force's strike aircraft are nearly useless, because they lack the range to reach overseas targets from the United States. That makes us dependent on a mere 200 long-range bombers, half of which are more than 30 years old and none of which are stealthy, i.e., survivable.

The B-2 bomber is the only aircraft available that can correct this basic gap in U.S. military capabilities. Since we have already spent over $20 billion to develop the B-2, it makes little sense to simply walk away without getting the benefits of our investment.

The experience of the 20th century teaches us that potential adversaries are never far away.

We need to have weapons that will work against the more capable aggressors of the future, and not just against today's relatively minimal threat.

That doesn't mean the Pentagon needs more money, but it does mean we should be thinking more clearly about how our defense dollars are spent.

Merrick Carey

Arlington, Va.

The writer is president of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution, a .. non-partisan Washington think tank that concentrates on

defense and other domestic matters.

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