GOP Foes Agree on Defense Spending: Forces Need More, Whitman, Bauer Say

Article excerpt

Two high-profile Republicans - not known for seeing eye-to-eye - both used the Memorial Day weekend to call for increased defense spending.

New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman made her pitch in the weekly Republican radio address, and GOP presidential candidate Gary Bauer made his during campaign stops yesterday in Des Moines, Iowa. Both argued that the current defense funding level is inadequate, given the heightened U.S. military involvement in Kosovo and other hot spots.

Mrs. Whitman and Mr. Bauer are well-known adversaries on the issue of abortion - one of the toughest the GOP has to grapple with.

"National defense is the only major category of federal spending to decline over the past decade," Mrs. Whitman said in the radio address yesterday. "It has been reduced so much during the Clinton administration that defense spending has not even kept up with inflation."

She cited specific areas where there have been sizable reductions.

"During the 1990s, Navy ships have decreased from 546 to 333; fighter wings from 24 to 13; and our Army has gone from 18 divisions to 10. Our military has shrunk by 40 percent this decade, even as our president has been deploying troops at a record clip," said the New Jersey governor, who is still viewed by some as a rising star in the GOP, despite her pro-choice stance.

Mrs. Whitman went on to identify other military shortfalls. "We shouldn't have shortages in air-launch cruise missiles, or a $3.5 billion shortfall in ammunition, or a Navy that is down some 18,000 sailors," she said.

"We shouldn't have to move aircraft from Turkey to the Balkans and thus weaken our stand against Saddam Hussein," she said. "And we shouldn't have to suffer these depletions while the People's Republic of China is using stolen U.S. technology to build intercontinental ballistic missiles that could be used against us."

The New Jersey governor labeled the congressional report detailing Chinese espionage "disturbing. …