Let Defense Budget Critics ‘Tell It to Marines’: Reagan

Associated Press

President Reagan watched Marine Corp recruits clamber over a forbidding series of obstacles at this training center today and said advocates of cuts in his defense budget should “tell it to the Marines.”

“America didn’t become great because we took the easy road,” Reagan said in a speech to about 200 graduates who have completed an 11-week training course at the Parris Island Marine Recruit Depot.

“To all of those who say we must always cut defense first, that America can’t afford a strong military, I have just one thing to say: Tell it to the Marines,” he said.


Reagan flew to Parris Island by helicopter from Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station at Beaufort, S.C., after a flight from Washington on Air Force One. During the flight, he made phone calls to senators urging that his proposed arms sale to Saudi Arabia be upheld.

Weinberger, Regan

The President was accompanied by Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger and by White House Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan, who served as an instructor at Parris Island while he was in the Marines.

After viewing the obstacle course, Reagan spoke to a crowd of about 8,000 in front of the Colonial-style brick headquarters building at the training depot.

The recruits, dressed in fatigues, sat on the asphalt as the President spoke, rising at times and interrupting frequently with applause. They applauded heartily Reagan’s “tell it to the Marines” line.

“At ease and feel free to laugh,” Reagan told the Marines. “That’s an order.”

Opening his address, Reagan interpolated, “I wonder if you have any idea what this means to a former second lieutenant of horse cavalry.” Reagan served in a reserve cavalry unit while working as a broadcaster in Iowa in the 1930s.

2 Versions Await Action

Reagan has proposed a defense budget of $320 billion, but the House has trimmed it to $285 billion and the Senate to $301 billion. The two versions are awaiting action by a House-Senate conference committee.


“Sometimes I’d like to take some of those people in Washington who are always trying to cut defense spending and bring them here to Parris Island--or to Ft. Jackson, Orlando, or Lackland,” Reagan said.

“I promise that I will fight as hard as I know how to make sure you get the support you deserve,” he said.

The President flew to Greensboro, N.C., later in the day to speak at a fund-raising affair for Rep. James T. Broyhill, the Republican candidate for the Senate seat being left vacant by the retirement of GOP Sen. John P. East.