By Christoph Bertram (eds.)
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NATO has long relied on the threat of ftrst use of nuclear weapons, should conventional defences fail to deter Soviet conventional attack. Yet unclassifted sources state that the present NATO command system would require at least two days to transmit nuclear release authority to a NATO field commander, once such authority had been requested. Some believe that even this timeframe is optimistic. Thus it is not clear that NATO's present command system permits a rapid enough response to thwart a Soviet invasion.
All these considerations of the Federal Budget and fiscal policy have powerful implications for defence policy and planning. Unless the President backs away from his commitment to a balanced budget, the Department of Defense may well be forced to reduce its spending below the Administration's currently planned levels, especially if the economy grows more slowly than expected or the necessary non-defence reductions are not fully realized. For example, the one percent shortfall in projected growth discussed above could reduce the real growth in the FY 84 Defense Budget to zero.
But, given the clear desire of the Administration to strengthen the American defence posture, the risk is minimal and planning clearly prudent. NOTES 1 For example, see MIT Economist Lester Thurow's article in The Ne11· York Times. 31 May 1981, p. F-3. \lolllhlr t:conomic Nelrslella. July 1981. l2. or William Nordhaus. 'No Great Threat from Military Spending'. The Nnt· York Timn. 17 May 1981. p. F-3. Daniel Yankelovich and Larry Kaagan. 'Assertive America'. Jirs, 'America and the World'. 1980.