May 11, 1999

   "Our Navy must have at its core the world's best
submarine force,'' said Sen. Joseph Lieberman
last December. ''The weapons that will dominate
battlespaces of the future are those that are lethal,
stealthy, mobile and flexible ... [and] the
submarine fits this description best.''
   Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat and one of
the Senate's most respected national-defense
experts, couldn't have put it better.
   At present, the Navy's ballistic-missile submarine
force makes up fully 54 percent of America's
nuclear deterrent (while employing just 1.5
percent of the country's uniformed naval
personnel). Once submerged and on patrol,
Trident-class submarines are undetectable by
potential enemies - and thus invulnerable to
   Now comes word that the Clinton administration
has allowed critical information concerning
top-secret submarine-detection radars to go over
the transom. It apparently landed in the People's
Republic of China, where it joins purloined data
that likely will permit the Chinese to rapidly advance
their nuclear-weapons acquisition program.
   Giving up the weapons secrets was bad enough.
The loss of information that might permit Beijing
more easily to locate deployed nuclear submarines
conceivably changes the global power balance.
Not right away, for sure, and maybe not ever. It's
not all that clear how well the radar technology at
issue works - or even that it works at all.
   Basically, it's meant to chart the passage of
submerged submarines by measuring the slight
upward displacement of water that they produce.
But the former Soviet Union thought enough of its
potential to invest enormous sums in research,
particularly in satellite-based systems. And the
U.S. apparently has deployed anti-sub radars
aboard aircraft.
   Now, the information is in Chinese hands -
whence it passed on Bill Clinton's watch.
The White House has many questions to answer -
as honorable Democrats like Joe Lieberman
clearly know.
   It's time somebody started asking them.