-- Overview --
". . . It is . . . my duty to do all that I can to reduce the level of danger by diplomatic means, so my policy for national security can be summed up in three words--peace through strength. I believe it is far better to seek negotiations with the Soviet Union based on strength than to permit a runaway nuclear arms race and risk a nuclear holocaust."
The White House
President Ford believes that a strong defense posture gives weight to our values and our views in international negotiations; assures the vigor of our alliances; and sustains our efforts to promote settlements of international conflicts. Only from a position of strength can the United States negotiate a balanced agreement to limit the growth of nuclear arms. Only a balanced agreement can serve our interest and minimize the threat of nuclear confrontation. President Ford has said that he is:
"determined to resist unilateral disarmament."
"committed to keeping America's defenses second to none."
Fourteen years on the Defense Appropriation Subcommittee while a Congressman, gave President Ford an in depth understanding of the elements required for a truly comprehensive national defense policy. Since taking office, President Ford's Administration has:
Today, for the first time in a decade and a half, America is at peace. But preservation of both world peace, and our freedom, rests on the maintenance of a balance of power between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Hence, our position relative to the Soviet Union stands at the forefront of our foreign policy, our security arrangements, and our military planning and posture around the world.
Defense spending--measured in terms of what a defense dollar can buy--has steadily declined over the last seven years. Federal spending for services and support for individuals--health, social security, and other benefits--and the amount of money sent to the states in the form of grants, often to supplement many of these services--has nearly doubled over that time. While states, counties, cities, individuals, and the Federal Government contribute at each level to these health, income maintenance, and social improvement programs, only the Federal Government can constitutionally maintain the national defense. Thus, only the Federal budget reflects its cost. And the percentage of this budget devoted to defense is now the lowest (24.4%) since Pearl Harbor.
Over the years United States policy has been to seek a reduction of international tensions and a corresponding decrease in military expenditures, through negotiations and discussions. President Ford believes, however, that the incentive to achieve effective agreements will exist only if the United States and its allies remain at least as strong as those of potential adversaries. It has been clearly established that the U.S.S.R. has steadily increased its army, navy, and air force in recent years. Consequently, President Ford has decided that it is time to halt the downward trend in defense spending.
To maintain the military balance, the President has submitted a defense budget for 1977 which provides a real increase of $7.4 billion in total obligational authority in defense spending to buy new weapons systems; to improve readiness of existing forces; and to increase selected combat forces. In supporting his FY 77 defense request for $114.6 billion in total obligational authority, President Ford said:
"In my Presidency, I have proposed the two largest peacetime defense budgets in American history as the best assurance of deterring aggression and maintaining our own national security."
The President's budget increases are designed, above all, to maintain and improve U.S. military capabilities:
To his initial budget request for 16 new Navy ships -- a 25% increase over the average ship-building in the previous nine years -- the President later asked for additional money for five more ships plus advance funding for a new Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. Among the new ships will be three more nuclear powered attack submarines, and eight guided missile frigates.
And, to moderate the increase in resources that are required to maintain U.S. military strength, President Ford has proposed the following measures to increase the efficiency of the defense establishment:
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Speaking on March 29, in support of the Defense budget, President Ford stated:
"I want to serve notice today that if the Congress sends me a defense budget that shortchanges the future safety of the American people, I will veto that defense bill, unprecedented though that might be, and go directly to our fellow citizens, 215 million strong, on this life and death issue. Nothing is more vital than our national security."
President Ford emphasized his commitment to a strong, vital national defense this way:
"I am convinced that adequate spending for national defense is an insurance policy for peace we cannot afford to be without."
Before the Armed Force Committee in Louisville, Kentucky, President Ford set forth these principles:
"We owe our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines the finest tools, the finest equipment, the finest leadership that this country can provide. And we are going to provide it. . . . We are strong today, We are well-prepared to deter war, as we have, But if deterrence . . . should fail we are well-prepared to control the conflict and to avoid nuclear confrontation. Our job is to make sure America remains strong, and I promise you as Commander in Chief and as President that we will remain strong in the future, as we have in the past."
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