The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington
ACCOMPLISHMENTS of the Lisbon meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Council have lost little of their luster in retrospect. Perhaps the most important achievement, though it did not create the most headlines, was the adoption of the bulk of the recommendations of the Temporary Council Committee. For the first time, military objectives have been brought into balance with the economic capabilities of the NATO countries. This represents a real triumph for the “three wise men ” of the TCC -Harriman of the United States, Plowden of Great Britain, and Monnet of France. It also reflects the handiwork of General Joseph T. McNarney, who did much of the military survey job for Harriman.
Not only does the Lisbon agreement mean large increases in most national defense budgets; it also means that for the first time national military expenditures will come under international scrutiny. NATO’s combined military objectives by the end of 1952 are a 50-division ground force, a 4000plane air force, and 704 major combat vessels.
The 50 divisions, to be sure, are not quite what they seem. Not for some days after the Lisbon meeting, when criticism developed in London, was it made clear that only about half the 50 divisions will he combat-ready. The remainder will be reserve divisions available in 30 days; contingents stationed in Britain and continental United States will be part of this force.
But the 4000 planes are expected to be real enough — and it is in air power that NATO is weakest today. The United States has promised “substantially” more air wings, and Britain will furnish 1300 jet fighters and light bombers. While the F-84s the United States is sending are not so fast as the short-range Russian MIG-15 interceptor, they will be useful in defense and tactical support operations.
Moreover, the 600,000 trained fighting men available in Greece and Turkey are not counted in the 50-division total. The United States and Britain also have large naval forces in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean that add to NATO strength.
The European Army — or European Defense Community — is the other important agreement reached at Lisbon. It is as much a political as a military arrangement, for it provides a way out of the impasse between France and Germany over German rearmament. Germany will not be represented in NATO proper, but she will be an equal member of the European Defense Community.
In EDC six Western European nations— France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg — will fuse most of their armed forces into a single international army under NATO. National “groupments" of 13,000 men each will be placed under international control at the corps level. The European Defense Community itself will be a permanent operating agency working under a single military budget for the six member nations. One of the real hopes for the EDC is that it will be able to institute a unified procurement system which will help weld Europe together economically.
Let Europe make the gnus
Unquestionably the most vulnerable item in the foreign aid bill is the $1.7 billion requested for “defense support.” This new phrase was coined to replace “economic aid” for Western Europe in the hope that Congress would take a charitable view of funds which do not go directly into armaments, but which are indispensable to expanded defense.
The justification is twofold. First, there cannot be an expanded defense in Western Europe unless the countries there, hard pressed for dollar imports as they increase their military expenditures, are able to keep their economies from collapsing. Second, it is cheaper to give Europe the aid to enable her to produce her own defense than it would be to supply all that defense from here.
Mutual Security officials figure that each dollar spent in defense support is multiplied four times in total European production. The increase in actual defense expenditures is at a ratio of 2 1/2 to 1. For example, a machine shop in Belgium, equipped with $50,000 worth of new tools, could produce weapons worth many times that amount.
Defense support thus becomes, in the eyes of its promoters, a sort of catalyst of the entire arms aid program, the indispensable element which will make possible defense expenditures of $13.9 billion next year by the Europeans themselves.
The placing of more orders for military goods in Europe, not only for the NATO countries themselves but also for the United States, would help to sop up unemployment in Italy, France, and Belgium by making use of idle industrial capacity; it would provide NATO countries with an additional source of dollars; and it would help to avoid the overexpansion which is now threatening American industry.
According to a conservative estimate, European plants could produce $3 billion worth of military goods by the end of next year. Nevertheless, the Administration has had a hard time spending the $625 million appropriated for offshore procurement of NATO goods in 1951-52.
The moving spirit in the effort to break the roadblock is William H. Draper, the hard-hitting new Mutual Security chief in Europe. With the $1 billion in offshore purchase funds requested for next year, Draper hopes not only to advance the concept of unified NATO procurement, but also to induce European countries to ignore national boundaries in placing their own orders.
One of the most fascinating reversals of position to take place in recent months is the sudden discovery by Pan American World Airways that direct competition is a fine thing and ought to be continued in Europe. Heretofore Pan Am and it champion in Congress, Senator Brewster, have always advocated the “chosen instrument,”or single United States overseas airline.
Two years ago Pan Am purchased American Overseas Airlines despite cries of “monopoly” from its only competitor in Europe, Trans-World Airlines. The lobbies of all three airlines— Pan Am, TWA, and American — intrigued as only airline lobbies can, and there was talk at the time of crude threats employed by Pan Am against a member of the Civil Aeronautics Board.
At any rate, a majority of the CAB opposed the purchase, but the President upset the decision — an action which resulted in the angry resignation of CAB Chairman Joseph J. O’Connell, Jr. In the process the President certificated TWA to two points it had not previously served, London and Frankfurt, and certificated Pan Am to Paris and Rome, where TWA had enjoyed a monopoly.
Now the certificates are up for renewal. TWA, in seeking permanent certificates, wants to retain entry to the London and Paris “gateways” but thinks Pan Am ought to be removed from Paris and Rome. Pan Am is satisfied with things just as they are. Though the battle between the lobbies has not erupted in public, the lobbies are still there.
Pan Am is probably right. There is no evidence that direct competition has hurt TWA; indeed, the CAB recently reduced TWA’s transatlantic mail pay. Actually, there is considerable reason to believe that competition has put both lines on their toes in generating new traffic.
Waste in military procurement
It would be hard to find a more ingrown attitude than prevails in military purchasing. The resistance to change among officers in charge of setting specifications and buying the thousands of items the military needs is perhaps the largest factor in armed forces waste.
Two groups in Congress — the Senate Preparedness Subcommittee and the House Procurement Subcommittee — have been exposing some of the more flagrant instances of waste. Examples have ranged from an oversupply of oyster forks and two services paying widely differing sums for the same item to overluxurious chairs and improper airfield construction.
Many of the criticisms have struck home, and the net effect unquestionably has been healthy. It is possible, however, to concentrate too much on the nickels and miss the dollars. The really big extravagances are not to be found, for example, in the discrepancies in the prices paid for shoes. A decision to change the design of a plane or tank when production is under way can cost hundreds of millions of dollars. One defense official saved $20 million simply by leveling off draft calls to provide for an even flow of men.
In fairness to procurement officers it also must be pointed out that they work under handicaps. They must accept the lowest bid but must favor small business; they must aid cities where there is unemployment but must spread contracts evenly; they must get the job done quickly but must avoid encouraging monopoly. Above all, they must be prepared to defend their actions at all times. Most of the restrictions they must observe were written into the law by Congress.
At the root of the waste is the fact that each service has a long tradition of doing things its own way.. Each service thinks, for example, that its own particular brand of medical supply is best. Moreover, the Army still has seven separate supply branches buying equipment. Each military department must unify itself before purchases can be fully standardized.
Under the prodding of Assistant Secretary of Defense W. J. McNeil, the Munitions Board has reduced the number of catalogue items carried by the armed forces from 15 million to 1.5 million, and further reductions are being made. This is slow work, because there may be as many as 50 different listings for a single item, and different manufacturers have varying descriptions for the same part. Before duplicate listings can be eliminated, it is necessary to make tests to insure that the items in each instance are actually the same.
But there is some progress, as exemplified by the fact that a way has been found to manufacture at a cost of less than 1 cent a part going into aircraft engines that formerly cost $2. Moreover, at Defense Department suggestion Congress wrote a provision into the military public works bill prohibiting extra payments for expediting construction. This has been a big factor in inducing the services to set realistic deadlines on construction projects. The real elimination of waste will come through a combination of constant prodding plus consistency in policy decisions.
LeMay to the Pentagon
General Curtis E. LeMay, the cigarchewing and bombastic former boss of the Strategic Air Forces, is being groomed as the next Air Force Chief of Staff. The reappointment of General Hoyt S. Vandenberg for a 14month term was portrayed as a courtesy to permit General Vandenberg to complete thirty years of service prior to retirement. Actually, if also serves to put LeMay under the close scrutiny of Secretary Finletter in a job of wider responsibility. LeMay has been brought from Omaha to Washington as Vice Chief of Staff.
The question Air Force critics are asking is whether LeMay can change his spots. The stocky 45-year-old general, affable enough to his friends but brusque in public, has a unique reputation for single-mindedness.
Virtually his entire experience has been with big bombers; during the war he directed Flying Fortress missions in Europe and later, from Guam, presided over the B-29 raids on Japan as Chief of Staff of the Army Strategic Air Forces. As head of the Strategic Air Command since 1948, he has championed a strong strategic, bombing force almost to the exclusion of other types of warfare and has been ‘ the foremost advocate of the awkward and controversial B-36 intercontinental bomber.
But strategic bombing, though still America’s Sunday punch, has lost some of its glitter. For one reason, there is some cause to believe that it was the braggadocio of LeMay and other long-range bombing spokesmen that led indirectly to the development of the Russian MIG-15. This fast interceptor, primarily defensive, would make very difficult a daytime strike against Russia by the B-36 or any other bomber now in quantity production. Indeed, the experience with the MIG-15 over Korea shows that it would be extremely costly, if not impossible, to earn out a MacArthur-type bombing program against Communist China, even if that were desirable.
Secretary Finletter, though he respects the need for a strategic striking arm, does not shout about it from the housetops. Despite personal differences with General Vandenberg, Finletter in recent months has leaned toward the more balanced views Vandenberg represents. LeMay remains Funletter’s choice for Chief of Staff. The intent of his transfer to Washington is to help him place strategic bombing in perspective with the tactical and defense duties of the Air Force.
Mood of the Capital
President Truman’s decision not to run for re-election, while enhancing his stature, threw the Democratic Party into chaos. Not since 1932 has there been an open field for Democratic candidates. Even Mr. Truman’s close associates had no foreknowledge of his decision, and the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner was so logical a spot for the announcement that the possibility had been discounted. The predominant reaction of jubilation almost overshadowed the chagrin over the obviously forced resignation of Defense Mobilizer Charles E. Wilson.
Senator Kefauver, as the first announced Democratic candidate, received the immediate benefit; but Kefauver is unpopular with the politicians. The very reluctance of the President’s personal nominee, Governor Stevenson of Illinois, seems to make him more attractive, and there is talk of capitalizing on Southern support for Senator Russell of Georgia by teaming him with Stevenson. The real choice will depend on whether the Democrats think they are picking a candidate to throw to the wolves or one who has a chance—in other words, on whether the Republicans nominate Eisenhower. Since the Democrats meet two weeks after the G.O.P. convention, they will wait to see what the Republicans do.
The most significant thing about the galloping Eisenhower boom is that the professional politicians have begun to climb aboard. Eisenhower enthusiasts in the Capital were far more encouraged by the blizzard of write-in votes in Minnesota than by the dear Eisenhower victory over Senator Taft in New Hampshire.
The fact that 107,000 persons were willing to write in the name of a man not even on the ballot is proof of an enormous popular groundswell. There has not been such a display of spontaneous popular acclaim since the nomination of Wendell Willkie in 1940. The Willkie boom, however, did not mature until the convention; Eisenhower will go into the convention with a demonstrated following that transcends party lines.