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MX missile: a trump card for Salt II?

Retired Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt, leading advocate of a big defense buildup, called the controversial MX missile system a "monstrosity" and said the estimated cost of $35 billion to $60 billion should better be used for other weapons. He declared the system was advocated to help pass the unsuccessful Salt II treaty.

The Mormon Church attacked the MX program, May 5, with a statement by church president Spencer W. Kimball and two counselors urging that the system be kept out of Utah and Nevada but an alternative program found.

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The Air Force proposed putting 300 MXs underground in an interconnected system of silos in the US Southwest where the weapons could be shuttled secretly back and forth in a gigantic "shell game." Mobile deployment would make them invulnerable to Soviet counterattack, senators were told during the Salt II ratification hearings.

Admiral Zumwalt, a leading exponent of defense buildup, said here that he had condemned the MX system to Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and urged a commission, which is now at work, to review the situation. "I think we do need the missile," Secretary Weinberger said after the Mormon denunciation. "The question is where do we put it?"

Admiral Zumwalt was chief of naval operations from 1970 to 1974, and a Democratic candidate for the US Senate in Virginia in 1975. It may take 10 years, he says, to achieve arms equality with the Soviets even with accelerated building, but he rules out the MX.

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