The White House had little to say today about Budget Director David A. Stockman's congressional testimony that military leaders care more about their pensions than they do about national security--a statement that Stockman said would probably get him "in hot water."
But Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger was said to be outraged, and there was no lack of comment on Capitol Hill. Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) called Stockman's remarks "about as distasteful as anything I've heard from any Administration official since I've been in Washington."
But both Senate Republican leader Robert J. Dole (Kan.) and House GOP leader Robert H. Michel (Ill.) defended Stockman and praised him for speaking out.
Stockman told the Senate Budget Committee on Tuesday that the military pension system is "a scandal . . . an outrage" but that this is his "personal opinion," probably not shared by Reagan.
The military pension plan is expected to cost nearly $16 billion this year and is scheduled to rise in cost to $17.8 billion under Reagan's new budget.
At the White House, spokesman Larry Speakes said President Reagan "is deeply appreciative of the sacrifice and contribution of the men and women in uniform.
'A Personal Opinion'
"I point out to you that Stockman, in his testimony yesterday, said he was expressing a personal opinion probably not shared by the President," Speakes continued. "Other than that, I will have no comment. Try as you might, you will not get a comment."
Speakes said his own statement represented "the President's views."
He declined to answer when asked whether Stockman will remain in his job, but he cautioned reporters that they should not read any implications into that refusal to comment.
As for the cost of military pensions, Speakes said, "Our view on the cost of all government retirement systems and government pay systems is reflected in the budget."
Weinberger was outraged by Stockman's remarks, a senior Pentagon official said today.
"What worse thing can you say about a military officer, senior or otherwise, that's worse than that, which Weinberger thinks is outrageous," said the official, who asked not to be identified.
But Stockman drew strong support from Dole and Michel.
"If he needs support, I'm happy to support him," Dole said after a White House meeting with Reagan today. "I don't envy David Stockman's position, but I think he has to take the varnish off. I told him this morning he's a little soft, frankly."
Michel said he is "not shying away from my support for the budget director. It's the toughest job in government today."
Michel also said there would be no harm in Congress examining possible "long-range" changes in military pensions.