The Pentagon Budget as War Policy: Or How to Cut War Expenditure to the Bone

The Pentagon Budget as War Policy: Or How to Cut War Expenditure to the Bone

THE SENATE DEBATE last summer on the ABM system was important not only in its own right, but also for the practice it gave senators in evaluating military-political issues. Since the end of the Second World War military budgets have been adopted by the Congress virtually without debate, and 1941 was the last time that a major military proposal (the draft) passed the Senate by a margin of one vote. The narrowness of this margin is a political fact of considerable importance, indicating a shift of attitude both in the country at large and in Washington; it suggests that the day when the Pentagon could get almost anything it wished may now be over.

One of the central themes of the Senate ABM debate was the idea that voting money for military technologies and organizations is tantamount to a vote on foreign policy. The capability conferred by weapons systems is capability for particular international behaviors; giving the Executive this capability has begun to be understood as the functional equivalent of authorizing its use, in accordance with the judgment of the President. What is involved here is the decisionpower of the Senate. This element gave the Senate debate on ABM its special quality, apart from such considerations as inflation, national priorities, disillusion with the military performance in Vietnam, and the danger of nuclear war from an escalated arms race. I think it reasonable to expect the concern of senators over their decision-power to be a continuing factor that will produce sustained criticism of Pentagon budgets.


Lima