Proposed 40% Reduction in Civil Defense Budget

The Office of Management and Budget has drastically cut the budget for nuclear-attack related civil defense for fiscal year 1986. Appropriations for civil defense in fiscal year 1985 were $181 million, still only a tiny fraction of Soviet civil defense expenditures. OMB's approved figure for 1986 is only $119.1 million, a 40% cut that brings the civil defense budget, in real terms, to its lowest level.

The net effect of this cut is devastating. After 1986, if OMB gets its wish, there can be no meaningful protection of American citizens against enemy attack.

Although President Reagan specifically noted the need for civil defense in his 1985 State of the Union message, his budget advisers have gone ahead and slashed the funds for civil defense, with results such as:

--Potential fallout and blast shelters cannot be identified, marked, and used in planning, because the annual shelter survey will be eliminated.

--There is no money in the budget for upgrading shelters.

--There is no money for improving state and local emergency operations centers, (EOCs), vital for controlling both natural and war-related crises.

--There is no money for the emergency broadcast system, the only means the government has to communicate with American citizens during a national emergency.

--There is no money for hardening electrical and communications equipment against electromagnetic pulse (EMP).

--Money for maintaining and repairing radiation-detection instruments has been eliminated. No funds are in the budget to replace them if they wear out or are broken (140 maintenance workers will be cut from their jobs).

--Research on civil defense has been eliminated. Training and education has been cut back significantly. Warning system purchases will be cut off, and the improvements made in these systems over the past two years will stop (and perhaps regress).

--The Industrial Protection Program has been eliminated.

--There will be no stocking of shelters with supplies or marking time so citizens know where to go for protection.

The Office of Management and Budget has strongly suggested that $119.1 million be the budget for civil defense each year from now on. This means that American civil defense capabilities will be dwindling at a time when nuclear-attack capabilities of our adversaries are increasing. It is ironic that the Reagan Administration should so strongly support its own Strategic Defense Initiative for future protection while gutting civil defense, a presently available program integral to successful population protection in the event of nuclear war.

To what purpose may weapons prevail if the people are forfeit? The vital protection of the civilian population is the primary obligation of government--a first priority, not the last. The proposed budget cuts for civil defense makes a mockery of our historic value system, which reveres human life.

The protection of citizens by their government has been a fundamental rationale for the existence of any government or state for millenniums! This obligation, which was so fundamental that it was never written formally into law, has now been codified in the 1977 Geneva agreements that were signed by both the United States and the U.S.S.R.

Civil defense has no constituency; no special interest lobby; no huge corporate profits to be made. But for the love of God and country, we cannot allow politics to prevail over reason, and profits over human survival. American lives do not make an effective "cost trade-off." If Americans won't demand their legal rights of protection against attack, let our legislators use their moral conscience as their constituency and restore the funds for civil defense.


Los Angeles

Greene is vice president of the American Civil Defense Assn.

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