Bush's Call for Nuclear Weapons Cuts Becomes Test to Military Leaders

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- In directing the Pentagon to consider further cuts in nuclear weapons, President Bush is testing military leaders' views that reductions beyond those already planned would undermine their ability to deter war.

Bush said yesterday he is ordering Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to conduct a "top-to-bottom" review of the military -- its strategy, missions, modernization priorities and other aspects. Included in the review is a look at how much further the nuclear arsenal could prudently be reduced, officials said.

The president also affirmed that he would not ask Congress for an "early supplemental," or an add-on to the $297 billion Pentagon budget. That leaves open the possibility -- considered a high probability by many in the Pentagon -- that he will seek a supplemental in the spring or summer.

Bush said he would talk about defense spending issues next week when he travels to military bases. He specifically mentioned his campaign promise to spend an extra $1 billion on military pay raises.

Three House Democrats influential on defense issues sent a letter to Bush yesterday urging him to reconsider his decision not to immediately fill the $7 billion spending gap the joint chiefs of staff have identified.

"We believe that addressing these glaring needs immediately should be a top priority and must be included in your budget before we can responsibly consider trillion-dollar tax cuts," the letter said. …


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