Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Senators from Defense Industry States Urge US Armaments Sales

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Senators from Defense Industry States Urge US Armaments Sales

Article excerpt

AN effort to increase United States arms exports might not seem politically correct, given today's new world order. But a couple of Senate Democrats are proposing to do just that - by allowing the US government to provide loan guarantees for friendly countries that want to buy direct from American weapons makers.

The home state of the senators in question explains the motivation for the proposal. They're Sens. Christopher Dodd and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, a state hit hard by defense cutbacks. Their loan-guarantee idea is just one of many now circulating in a Congress worried about how to cushion the blow for communities affected by defense cuts.

Considering the scope of the problem and the complexity of trying to find a solution, it's not clear whether Congress will finally agree on a defense conversion package. But the push of local politics in an election year means legislators will certainly give it a try.

"The sanitary term for what's happening is 'dislocation.' The real term is 'pain,' " says an aide to a senator whose state is also losing defense jobs.

Nobody has hard figures on how defense-related employment will be affected by the Pentagon build-down. The congressional Office of Technology Assessment estimates as many as 2.5 million of the current 6 million defense jobs could disappear by the turn of the century. But defense dislocation is already a problem in states from Connecticut, where General Dynamics says it will lay off 4,000 Electric Boat employees if the proposed cancellation of the Seawolf submarine takes effect, to California, where limits on B-2 bomber production will affect thousands of Northrup Corporation workers.

The House's budget resolution for fiscal year 1993, passed by the chamber earlier this month, earmarks $1 billion of the Pentagon budget and $2 billion of other spending for economic conversion. If Congress votes to tear down the "walls" in the 1993 budget and allow direct shifts of defense funds to domestic spending, the budget resolution recommends even more non-defense spending: up to $6.6 billion.

The budget resolution doesn't parcel out this money line item-by-line item. For the use of the non-Pentagon funds, it recommends general increases for "research, small business, community development, education and job training programs," according to House budget documents. …

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