5 APRIL 1963, Page 5

Arms and One Man



iT was last week that the Defence Department had to issue a formal denial of a report that Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara had broken down and wept while testifying at a Closed session of a Senate Committee.

Mr. McNamara was defending himself against allegations that he had exercised -favouritism in awarding a $6 billion contract for the new TFX fighter plane to one megadollar defence corpora- tion over another. 'My son keeps asking, "When is my father going to be proved an honest man?"-' the Secretary is supposed to have said and then he iS supposed to have wept_ The Defence Department denied only the tears; the Secretary's reported citation of his son's ques- tion went unchallenged. It is, if true, an extra- ordinary personal outbreak for the most self- contained member of a notably self-contained administrative establishment. We have come to think of Mr. McNamara as a man who does sixty Push-ups in the morning, reads Max Weber and goes off to the calm endurance of a task well beyond any man who could not do as much. It is an ordeal which may be beyond even his strength. The American defence programme costs more than the combined net income of every Major corporation in the country. Mr. McNamara spends $55 billion a year; his allot- ment of contracts can make one town bloom and another wither. His choice of General Dynamics for the TFX contract was a blessing for Texas and a curse for the state of Washington, where 1/43errig Aircraft, the losing bidder, is centred. Senator Henry Jackson of Washington, a loyal Democrat, demanded that his colleagues investi- gate the award after a flood of letters from con- stituents who cried out that their very livings were at stake (later this prayer was answered bY a $358 million Air Force contract for Boeing). An American Congressman functions as a laiWyer for his client state. A Defence Depart- Ment spokesman who criticised Senator Jackson for an intervention which seemed to him narrow and sectional was almost universally condemned to a Senate which regards this sort of thing as the ...rnost proper expression of a member's function. It is a notion of duty which has the highest authority: President Kennedy urged the voters t,.)f Ohio to elect a Democratic governor last fall remise he could best co-operate with a Demo- . ratic administration in bringing defence projects 10 the state. Teddy Kennedy's election to the Senate Was mainly a triumph of blood; his chief !rgument in his own cause was the implication t, with a brother in the White House, he could 2ting more defence projects to Massachusetts roan anyone else in the state. last tihis tradition of regional service is the most !.it % in the American legislature. We might vyll ve thought that, like most poor traditions, it de at least have served as a barrier to the °vuld e1°Pment of that economy of national talism towards which the defence budget is carrying us. thle3ut_the American legislator is a broker and uetence budget is a trading block which turns usistance to satisfaction. Even a Senator's notion f`rf Patriotism can distract him from concern with the problem; to be a patriot in Congress is to become a reserve officer and thus often an arm of the Pentagon. Senator Barry Goldwater, his body's chief symbol of opposition to powerful and expensive government, is a brigadier-general in the Air Force reserve and he arises once in every session of Congress to defend the wildest demands in the Air Force budget.

'We have,' a distinguished Republican conser- vative complained recently, 'a corps of military reservists in Congress who meet for their training every Thursday night here in the Capitol. They spend most of their time talking to generals and admirals about their budgets. Then they come back in here and fight for their arm of the service. Suppose we had a bunch of former labour leaders in Congress who caucused once a week with the AFL-CIO in this building; can you conceive the outcries? Yet there's a Congressman on the Appropriations Committee who's a Major- General in the Chemical Corps. He never opens his mouth until the chemical corps comes in to ask for money. Then he asks a set of questions the corps has prepared for him and they give him their prepared answers.'

Private industry ordinarily functions to resist the perils and especially the fiscal exactions of large government; but it too suspends its com- plaints for the defence establishment. Last year, the administration asked Congress to raise the statutory national debt limit by $2 billion. There was only formal opposition; the best explanation for its weakness was offered by a Michigan Con- gressman who complained that the largest cor- poration in his district had telephoned to ask him to vote to raise the debt limit.

'They told me,' he said later, 'that the Pentagon had called to say they wouldn't be paid unless the government could borrow more money. I hadn't finished when the railing in front of the House was crowded with Congressmen who wanted to report that they had gotten calls just like that.'

The first President to struggle against the trend advanced by these variant surrenders was, oddly enough, Dwight D. Eisenhower who went out of office warning against 'the industrial-military complex' the growth of which, he said, involves `the very structure of our society.'

Whether at Mr. Kennedy's instance or from his own impulse, Secretary McNamara has set him- self since his induction to reassert civilian control of the Defence Department and to govern its so- far-irresistible expansion. He has gone it alone, a position his withdrawn temperament seems to enjoy; for months, by the mere decision of his demeanour, he has so outfaced his enemies as to be the most respected and popular figure in the administration. That position is terribly shaken and the demeanour with it; he seems finally over- mastered, in spirit at least, by the self-will of the military and the self-interest of the Congressional brokers.

He is not a warm man, but he is one honour- able and ready to accept the hazards of command. His crime has been to challenge a system where things ride men. No American liberal in power has yet made that challenge; as for the conserva- tives, the most vocal of them can only complain that Mr. McNamara is a dictator. Yet it would seem sound conservative doctrine that an economy of national socialism can have no result and no remedy except a dictator.