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Cuts in military spending urged

Former MIT president Jerome B. Wiesner and two other MIT scientists with long experience in the study of weapons and military policy--Philip Morrison and Kosta Tsipis--have called for deep cuts in US military procurement and expenditures in 1993-94 leading to a sharply reduced military establishment in the year 2000 and beyond.

They propose savings in nuclear and conventional forces over the next year amounting to $32 billion. By the turn of the century, the cuts would reach $581 billion (in 1993 dollars) for a total outlay of some 40 percent of what it is today.

The scientists, who said the reductions were made possible by the end of Communist expansion, unveiled their proposals at a press conference at the National Press Club on Wednesday, (Feb. 17). They also distributed their booklet, "Beyond The Looking Glass: The United States Military in 2000 and Later," which provides a detailed analysis of their recommendations. (Copies may be obtained in Rm 20A-011 or by calling x3-3647.)

The authors are:

Dr. Wiesner, who served as science advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and played a major role in the establishment of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. He was pivotal in the achievement of the partial nuclear test ban treaty and the successful effort to limit the deployment of the Anti-Ballistic Missile system. Over the years he has emphasized the need to reverse the arms race and has advocated deep cuts and effective controls of nuclear weapons.

Dr. Morrison, a theoretical physicist and Institute Professor Emeritus who has spoken and written on military affairs and nuclear disarmament since spending four years during World War II making atom bombs, from Fermi's first chain reactor through the first test.

Dr. Tsipis, an experimental particle physicist who directs MIT's Program in Science and Technology for International Security and is well known for his writing on the physics and technology of nuclear weapons, nuclear war and nuclear arms control.

In a foreword to the booklet, they write: "In these pages we outline a national necessity: prompt and radical reform of America's giant military enterprise. That reform can help us out of the economic muddle, and provide for our nation's safety in the long run."

Because the potential for catastrophe has receded, they continue, "In the next years US forces need to reflect the real armed world and its risks, not the shadowy image we once anxiously watched in the mirror. How much military force is enough? The balance must be reckoned afresh, starting with the huge inventory of weapons and the large trained forces we have. Certainly prudence implies that change cannot be too sudden, nor go beyond all possibility of reversal.

"Those constraints fulfilled, we propose that the American defense structure be at once steadily and sharply reduced, both in nuclear weaponry... and in the grand panoply of expensive hardware we call conventional... Of the five million men and women, in uniform and out, who now build, organize. and bear American arms, most will need to be set constructive tasks by the end of the decade."

Summing up the goals they propose, they write: "The normative assumption we can make here is that the US will retain strong nuclear deterrent forces, meant to avoid but not to initiate nuclear war, and keep non-nuclear forces enough to deter or even to prevail in any potential theater of war where we could plausibly find ourselves at war alone without well armed allies."

A version of this article appeared in the February 24, 1993 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 23).

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