Published August 1980 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Our No. 1 Priority The current atmosphere of international tension stresses the need for our nation to maintain its position of first-rate defense capabilities. Although our country prefers to use diplomatic channels to resolve international conflict, it is essential that we deal from a position of strength. Strength is the only language that can be understood clearly by potential aggressors. With this in mind, the Senate recently passed a $52 billion defense procurement bill that includes nearly $35 billion for military hardware and nearly $17 billion for research and development. The Senate-passed measure calls for the development of a new manned long-range strategic bomber to replace our fleet of B-52's by the mid-1980s. It also authorizes the Pentagon to start work on the MX missile, the newest generation of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles. In an attempt to keep our voluntary forces in uniform, the Senate called for an 11.7 percent pay raise, effective Oct. 1, for the two million men and women in the armed services. The bill also stipulates that 68 percent of our 1981 Army recruits should be high school graduates. The legislation sustains the major thrusts of defense preparedness initiatives that have been undertaken in the last four years. These initiatives have been designed to upgrade and improve military manpower, readiness, and equipment; enhance our theater presence, especially in Europe, the Middle East, and the Indian Ocean; and strengthen our arsenal of strategic weapons. These components represent the building blocks of our country's defense structure in the 1980's. We must continue our efforts to build a defense system that is practical and usable, and flexible enough to accommodate our foreign policy initiatives. National security always has been, and always will be, our no. 1 priority. Without national security, our other priorities have little meaning.