Efforts to Cut Deficit Raise Pressure on Military

By Silk, Leonard | THE JOURNAL RECORD, February 17, 1988 | Go to article overview

Efforts to Cut Deficit Raise Pressure on Military


Silk, Leonard, THE JOURNAL RECORD


The effort to bring down the United States' budget deficit, which has swollen the gross national debt from $1 trillion to more than $2.5 trillion in the last seven years, is increasing the pressure on the military budget.

Confronting the problem of bringing United States' commitments and capabilities into balance, Samuel P. Huntington, director of the Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, writing in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, said the central foreign policy problems of the next administration ``will be in the area of economics, which previous administrations generally avoided.'' He predicted that military spending under the coming Administration, whether Republican or Democratic, ``will not increase and may well decline.''

The question is whether this can be done without weakening the nation's security. William W. Kaufmann, a military specialist at Harvard, maintains that a host of cuts are feasible, especially in weapons systems that he calls unneeded. He can produce a long list of cuts that would trim $368 billion from the five-year military spending projection of $1.6 trillion made by Caspar W. Weinberger, the recently retired defense secretary.

Kaufmann gets his big savings from the Navy ($75.3 billion), Air Force ($168.2 billion) and the ``other'' category ($117.2 billion), where he sees savings in civilian personnel, national guard and reserve units, military construction and research and development. He would also have West Germany and Japan increase their share of the military burden by $15 billion each.

Joshua Epstein of the Brookings Institution has his own list of cuts, including cancellation of the Midgetman missile, a capping of the MX missile program at 50 missiles, and a slowdown in spending on the Strategic Defense Initiative and the Stealth bomber. He promises actual reductions in spending of $25 billion in the next two years.

Some analysts are skeptical of the ``hit list'' approach and call for major strategic changes that would allow sustained reductions over time. Thus, David Calleo of Johns Hopkins University recommends eliminating half the 10 divisions that the United States has committed to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He would leave in Europe the five American divisions stationed there and cut the five divisions based in the United States, for an estimated savings of $50 billion. …

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