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Statement of Administration Policy: H.R. 1748 - Defense Authorization Act, 1988

May 01, 1987


(Reps. Aspin (D) Wisconsin and Dickenson (R) Alaska)

The administration opposes House passage of H.R. 1748, as reported by the Committee on Armed Services on April 15, 1987, as well as passage of the Aspin substitute (H.R. 2169). Both contain provisions that seriously undercut U.S. national security and weaken U.S. arms control negotiation leverage. The President's senior advisors will recommend a veto of H.R. 1748 if it retains the restrictive ABM provisions, or H.R. 2169, if either is presented to him in its present form. In addition, the recommendation for a veto on national security grounds will be made if, as expected, amendments are added legislating adherence to SALT II limits, mandating new limits on nuclear testing, and perpetuating the current moritorium on ASAT testing against objects in space.

H.R. 1748 reduces authorizations for national defense programs and contains a limitation on ABM systems (Section 224) that would legislate the so-called "strict" interpretation of the ABM Treaty. These reductions and the restriction undercut essential programs, undermine Presidential authority, and weaken U.S. arms control negotiating leverage at a particularly sensitive time. The administration will seek deletion of the restrictive provision and restoration of authorizations to the full amount of the President's request.

The administration also opposes passage of the Aspin substitute (H.R. 2169), which includes the restrictive ABM provision and would dangerously reduce authorizations for the National Defense Function to a $288.6 billion level. The substitute would result in a third consecutive year of real decline in budget authority, and promote continuing erosion of the nation's defense effort. Authorizations at this level are inadequate to meet current defense requirements, and would not provide a sound basis for meeting our national security needs in the future. Specifically, the Aspin substitute would:

— Reduce authorization for many strategic programs, including the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), the Anti-Satellite (ASAT) System, classified strategic programs, the Short-Range Attack Missile II, the Ground-Launched Cruise Missile, the Peacekeeper Missile and Rail-Garrison Basing Mode R&D, Trident II (D-5) Missile R&D, the Advanced Cruise Missile, and Department of Energy nuclear program activities;

— Eliminate all procurement authorizations for important tactical programs such as the Bigeye Binary Chemical Bomb, the Aquila Remotely Piloted Vehicle, the AV-8B Harrier aircraft, and the DDG-51 AEGIS Destroyer, while cancelling the MK-50 Light-Weight Torpedo;

— Reduce authorizations for tactical programs including the Rolling Airframe Missile, MK-48 Torpedo, Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAm), and the Sea Lance Anti-Submarine Stand-Off Weapon;

— Reduce authorizations for military construction projects by $1,734 billion, deferring and stretching out many projects and eliminating projects in the Philippines and Turkey; and

— Reduce the pay raise for military personnel to three percent from the four percent requested, and delay the effective date from January 1, 1988, until April 1, 1988.

In addition, both bills propose inappropriate modifications to the Strategic and Critical Materials Stockpiling Amendments of 1987, which would remove the authority of the President to establish critical materials requirements in the stockpile, and would set stockpile requirements at approximately $10 billion above the President's proposed inventories as announced in May of 1985.

The administration is fundamentally opposed to three amendments that are expected to be offered on the floor. These amendments would undermine the credibility of our nuclear forces — which the Western Alliance must rely on for the foreseeable future to deter aggression — and would seriously damage our ability to achieve arms control agreements providing for deep, equitable, and effectively verifiable reductions in Soviet and American nuclear arsenals.

The amendment proposing a cutoff of funding for U.S. nuclear testing above one kiloton would:

— Preclude the very testing needed to maintain the safety, effectiveness, reliability, and survivability of our nuclear weapons, and would not be verifiable.

— Seriously undercut U.S. initiatives aimed at the essential first step of achieving Soviet agreement to necessary verification improvements to two existing but unratified agreements the Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT) and the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty (PNET). As the President has stated to the Congress and to General Secretary Gorbachev, once our verification concerns have been satisfied and those treaties have been ratified, the United States — in association with a program to reduce and ultimately eliminate nuclear weapons — immediately would propose negotiations with the Soviets on ways to implement a step-by-step parallel program of limiting and ultimately ending nuclear testing. But progress achieved on the U.S. initiatives during the recent meetings of Secretary Shultz and Foreign Minister Shevardnadze would be undercut by the proposed amendment.

An amendment is expected to be proposed that would mandate U.S. compliance with certain limitations in the SALT II Agreement. This agreement has never been ratified, would have expired if it had been ratified, and has been violated by the Soviet Union in numerous and important ways. The amendment would:

— Tell the Soviet Union that there is no cost to violating solemn agreements. It would allow the Soviets to discard the limitations that constrained them the most, while perhaps choosing to stay within those that constrained the United States the most. Putting into law parts of an agreement that has permited, and would continue to permit, large increases in Soviet strategic forces, would destroy the foundation for deep, equitable, and effectively verifiable reductions that this Administration has been working so vigorously to secure at the negotiating table.

— Reject the sound current framework of interim restraint pending achievement of a negotiated reductions agreement. The President has stated that the United States will continue to exercise utmost restraint — not deploying more strategic nuclear delivery vehicles or strategic ballistic missile warheads than the Soviet Union — but that future U.S. strategic force decisions must be based on the threat we face rather than on the terms of an unratified, expired and violated treaty.

The administration is strongly opposed to any floor amendment that would perpetuate the Soviet monopoly in ASAT capability that now exists. Legislation that would prohibit U.S. testing of ASAT Systems against objects in space by extending the current moratorium would block the testing needed to deploy a U.S. ASAT System similar to the one now deployed by the Soviet Union.

Ronald Reagan, Statement of Administration Policy: H.R. 1748 - Defense Authorization Act, 1988 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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