The next U.S. president should increase spending for non-nuclear weapons and meet military budgets by canceling new weapons instead of cutting training, a bipartisan group of legislators recommended Saturday.
"Like a sentry on a long, uneventful watch when things seem so quiet, our current defense policy relies too heavily on complacent assumptions that all is well," said the study."We seem to believe that our `big guns' - our strategic nuclear missiles, our proposed space weapons - will somehow save us from all problems, all foes," it warned.
The report was released by the Congressional Military Reform Caucus, a 7-year-old bipartisan group of senators and House members who have pushed for improvements in U.S. defenses. The group is chaired by Reps. Charles Bennett, D-Fla., and Tom Ridge, R-Pa.
The study called for shifting money from long-range nuclear weapons and "Star Wars" anti-missile research into conventional forces, such as armor and tanks. No figures or force levels were recommended.
The report also noted that budget restrictions will reduce future military spending plans. The Pentagon budget has been essentially frozen for the past four years, after four years of large increases during President Reagan's first term.
Whoever succeeds Reagan - Republican George Bush or Democrat Michael Dukakis - will have to make difficult choices, and he should cancel future weapons rather than cut back on basics such as training and ammunition, the study said.
In addition, it said, the U.S. military should go to a "back-to-basics" strategy that decreases dependence on short-range atomic weapons and high-technology systems and that relies more on defenses such as better armor.
"In some areas of Europe, we stockpile only nine days of ammunition, yet last year we allocated some $31 billion to strategic nuclear weapons," it said.
"We have spent $20 billion on MX missiles designed to fly 5,000 miles and hit within 100 yards of their targets, but we do not have in our arsenal an infantry weapon that can fly 500 yards and stop a modern Soviet tank," the study added.
Part of the report focused on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, and its ability to protect Western Europe from attack by the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies.
While noting that there is no conclusive way to assess NATO's capability versus the Warsaw Pact, the study called for more non-nuclear weapons.
"There is a growing sense in Congress that we must" rely more on conventional weapons, the study said.