GOP Wants to Trim `Fat' and Add Military Muscle but Democrats See Base Cleanup, Missile Dismantling as Key to Security

By Jonathan S. Landay, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, February 21, 1995 | Go to article overview

GOP Wants to Trim `Fat' and Add Military Muscle but Democrats See Base Cleanup, Missile Dismantling as Key to Security


Jonathan S. Landay, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


CAN the post-cold-war Pentagon, faced with constraints on resources, afford to underwrite inner-city youth programs and security for the Olympic Games?

No way, assert many members of the new Republican majority in Congress. Bound by a "Contract With America" pledge to stem military spending cuts, GOP "defense hawks" vow to eliminate many of these "nontraditional" defense programs from President Clinton's proposed fiscal 1996 budget.

They want the funds redirected to new weapons, military readiness, and pay hikes. "We need to optimize every defense dollar already requested or appropriated before we talk about spending more money on defense," notes Rep. Floyd Spence (R) of Florida, chairman of the House National Security Committee.

The Pentagon never sought some of these programs. They are personal projects that members of Congress slipped into its budget, such as $40 million to renovate New York City's Pennsylvania Station. Others include $210 million for breast cancer research and $10 million for Los Angeles youth programs.

Administration officials would likely not mind if some of these programs are eliminated or transfered to other agencies. But they dispute GOP contentions that savings of up to $11 billion in "nondefense" programs could be found in the $250 billion fiscal 1996 Pentagon budget Mr. Clinton has proposed.

"We're talking about three-tenths of 1 percent against a budget of $250 billion," says a senior defense official. By no "stretch of the imagination" can we cut $11 billon and not hurt the Defense Department.

The administration appears ready to fight for programs it regards as part of the military's "broader citizenship responsibilities." These include anti-drug-smuggling efforts, humanitarian mine-clearing missions abroad, and security for the Olympic Games.

But the administration's greatest fear is that in their new-found zeal for thrift, Republicans will target programs that at first appear to have little defense-related worth, but actually affect national security.

"It probably would have been politically easier to just take some of those programs off {the budget}," says Defense Secretary William Perry. "We considered that, but we decided to stick with our guns because we think we are right."

Mr. Perry is most concerned about three areas: waste cleanup at United States military bases, the dismantling of former Soviet nuclear missiles, and the Technology Reinvestment Project (TRP), which aids private firms in developing technologies with civilian and military uses.

These programs comprise most of the $60 billion that a recent congressional study suggests might be saved through the elimination of all programs that conservatives consider nontraditional defense items. …

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