WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee chastised the Reagan Administration today for its mixed messages over the relationship between "Star Wars" and nuclear deterrence.
"There appears to be considerable confusion within the Administration on this subject," said Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) in convening the latest in a series of panel hearings on the nation's defense strategy.
Nunn quoted Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, who appeared before the panel Monday, as saying the purpose of the Strategic Defense Initiative "is to bolster and not replace" deterrence.
On the other hand, Nunn said, President Reagan "said the purpose of SDI is not to enhance deterrence but to replace it."
Premise of Deterrence
Nuclear deterrence is based on the premise that if either superpower launches a nuclear attack, the retaliatory strike would be sufficient to devastate the other side.
"It seems the Administration still has a way to go in getting the concept of SDI in their own minds," said Nunn, who took over the committee when Democrats regained control of the Senate.
The committee today held the fifth of 13 hearings that Nunn has scheduled to assess national security strategy before it gets to work on the Pentagon's $312-billion spending request. The panel heard from James Schlesinger, who was President Richard M. Nixon's defense secretary.
Persian Gulf, Europe
Schlesinger, questioned by Nunn on where U.S. conventional forces should be bolstered, cited the Persian Gulf and Western Europe.
He called the gulf the West's "Achilles heel," primarily because of the West's increasing dependence on Persian Gulf oil. The Soviet Union, he said, has historically looked toward that region for a warm-water port.
Schlesinger suggested stationing a two-carrier task force in the region with the "political understandings that will permit us to maintain a (basing) presence" in the region.
If U.S. soldiers were stationed in the region, he said, it "would alter the deterrent equation in the region" because the Soviet Union does not like to start trouble where it knows American lives are at stake.