Weinberger Denies Funds Were Hidden : Says Pentagon Is Unjustly Accused of ‘Squirreling’ Money
Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, complaining that the Pentagon stands unjustly accused of “squirreling away” money for pet projects, said today the Reagan Administration will continue to seek a full contingent of 100 MX missiles.
“It is unfortunate that so many do not understand my motives and goals and choose instead to withdraw their support for a strong national defense,” Weinberger told the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Weinberger said the House-approved one-year freeze in Pentagon spending authority with no allowance for inflation was “very reluctantly” agreed to by the Administration. But he said it will result in reduced momentum toward reaching vital national security goals.
Long-Term Goals Delayed
“A continuation of this trend will undermine the improvements we have already made, and will delay indefinitely, with added cost, the achievement of our long-term goals,” Weinberger said.
In a question-and-answer period, both Weinberger and Army Gen. John W. Vessey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made clear they do not accept as permanent the caps on deployment of the MX missile imposed earlier this year. The Senate would limit deployment to 50, while the House would stop it at 40.
“Next year we will try to get us back on the path that will lead to 100 as quickly as Congress will permit,” Weinberger said.
Vessey added that “at least 100 MX are required to make sure the Soviets understand they cannot attack us with success.”
Outrage a Surprise
On another subject, Weinberger said he was not prepared for the widespread congressional outrage that followed the Pentagon’s May 14 disclosure that $4 billion in available funds had been discovered that could be used to soften the impact of congressional budget cuts.
At the time, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Les Aspin (D-Wis.) accused the Pentagon of systematically overestimating inflation and “squirreling away” up to $50 billion hidden in unobligated and unexpended balances, lapsed balances, reprogramming and huge defense contractor profits.
“We did not hide anything,” Weinberger said today, adding that the savings were made possible by the Administration’s success in lowering the inflation rate.
“It is interesting to note that previous administrations were attacked for underestimating inflation on one hand and for failing to control it on the other,” he said. “So now we control it, and as a result are able to make reductions, but are still attacked.”