The time honored technique used to promote higher military budgets is to instill fear in the American public about the Soviet Union by referring to its increasingly massive build-up of military weapons.
Information, available to the national press but not publicized by it, reveals that U.S. leaders and militarists lied about the Soviet arms build-up and knowingly used false information to inflate Soviet military expenditures.
First, the myth of the massive Soviet build-up: In 1983 testimony before the Joint Economic Committee, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) made a significant downward revision of its estimate of Soviet military spending for the period 1976-81 which went almost unreported in the press. The new estimate showed an increase of only 2% per year overall and no increase in the buying of weapons. During the same period, average annual U.S. military expenditures had a real growth rate of approximately 4% and since then have averaged 9%.
Like the bomber and missile “gaps” of the past that later proved illusory, we now find, as Senator William Proxmire said “Moscow has not been expanding its effort at the rapid rate that was once believed. It slowed its defense expansion beginning about seven years ago, a fact that the Soviets neglected to communicate and that the West failed to detect.”
Second, inflating Soviet military expenditures: The CIA is responsible for estimating Soviet military spending. Their methodology is to compute what the Soviet military would cost if built and operated in the U.S. using U.S. prices and wages! For example, to compute personnel costs, the CIA assumes a Soviet conscript’s salary to be $575 a month, which is what the U.S. Army pays a private. Actually, the Soviet conscript gets four or five rubles, about $8, a month.
Similarly, the CIA asks a U.S. corporation to compute what it would cost to build a new T-72 tank, or a new radar, or aircraft, a figure which even the CIA admits has very little to do with how much the item actually costs the Soviet government.
Despite the evidence to the contrary, President Ronald Reagan, his Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, and others continue to cite the “unrelenting” Soviet buildup as justification for increasing U.S. military expenditures even at the expense of sorely needed social programs.
DEFENSE MONITOR, Vol. XIII, #4, 1984, “Taking Stock: The U.S. Military Buildup,” p 3; AVIATION WEEK & SPACE TECHNOLOGY, 2/13/84, Soviet Defense Spending,” by William H. Gregory, p 11.