July 16, 1982
Dear Mr. Speaker:
I am writing to you and your colleagues to enlist your support in a bipartisan effort that I feel is essential to our national security and indeed the security of the free world in the troubled decades ahead. We have begun to negotiate with the Soviet Union what we earnestly hope will be an equitable and verifiable Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. I know that you will agree with me that we must maintain a position of unity and strength during these talks which are so vital to mankind.
Last fall I presented my Strategic Modernization Program to you for approval. I am pleased to say that since then we have taken the critical first steps needed to put the plan into action. Our initiatives for bomber modernization, strategic communications improvement, the Trident II program, and strategic defense are well under way. Implementation of our plan for ICBM modernization, however, is not keeping pace with the overall program. I believe that we need positive and prompt action to correct that situation.
With respect to M - X basing, I set forth a plan for resolving this issue by the spring of 1984. The Senate has now asked us to modify this plan. In its recent Defense Authorization Report the Senate expressed a desire for us to select a permanent basing mode by December of this year. I believe we can, with your help, meet that date.
As you know, however, the Senate failed to authorize the production funds needed to begin the production of the M - X missile itself. I cannot over-emphasize to you the serious negative impact this can have on our negotiations with the Soviets and our modernization program. Failure to authorize these funds will delay the program a year and increase the cost. Thus, it is essential that the House act to approve the production funds and that this action prevail in conference.
I believe that we must make a solid commitment this year to deploy the M - X missile. We simply cannot allow the land-based leg of the triad to remain vulnerable. We must also show our Allies that we can make the hard decisions necessary to modernize our strategic nuclear capacity -- decisions that promise to have great influence on the pace of ongoing Theater Nuclear Force modernization initiatives within NATO. And while it is my intention that the M - X not be a ``bargaining chip'' in the START negotiations, we need to secure the powerful leverage that a commitment to produce the M - X would provide as we begin effective arms reduction talks with the Soviets. Finally, we need to capitalize on the sizeable investment of some $4.5 billion that has already been made in the M - X program. These goals can only be achieved if decisive action is taken now to proceed with M - X production and deployment.
As you review this issue, I want to assure you that we intend to propose a final basing mode for the M - X by December. Some Members of Congress have expressed concern over the approval of basing funds before the basing mode is announced in December. I recognize that concern and will cooperate fully if the Congress wishes to place restrictions on the use of these funds until the basing decision is made in December. I urge you, however, to send a clear signal of strong U.S. resolve to the Soviets by fully authorizing and appropriating the funds I have requested for the M - X, especially those funds needed to begin production of the M - X this year. I need your full support of this vital program so that we can make the critical decisions we must in December to implement this much needed element to our modernization program. I further urge you to support restoration of the research and development budget for Ballistic Missile Defense to the level I have requested so that this program can maintain its proper place in relation to the M - X.
Note: The text of the letter was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on July 19.