Clinton Defense Budget Cuts Into Troops, Ships

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President Clinton, unveiling his first military spending plan Friday, sent Congress a $263.4-billion defense budget for fiscal 1994 that would reduce troop strength to a level not seen since the Korean War but would keep most major weapons systems intact.

According to documents to be formally released at the Pentagon today, Clinton recommended spending $12 billion less than former President George Bush had proposed for next year, the first installment in a plan to spend $88 billion less for defense over the next four years than the Republican Administration had recommended.

“This is in many ways the first truly post-Cold War budget,” Defense Secretary Les Aspin said in a prepared statement accompanying the budget. “It cuts Cold War forces and begins to buy the new capabilities we need to meet the new dangers we face.”


The budget would reduce troop strength by 108,000 from its current level of 1,775,000 and mark the start of a major reduction for the Navy by retiring 28 active warships, including one aircraft carrier and two reserve vessels.

The budget also would trim the number of Army active divisions from 14 to 12 and reduce Air Force fighter wings from 28 to 24.

Those proposals are expected to meet resistance from Congress and some military leaders, who have said they fear that Clinton’s plan will leave U.S. forces ill-trained and too small to contend with the range of commitments the nation has made.

Gen. Colin L. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has argued that the Administration’s approach in designing future forces is “fundamentally flawed” and that “the forces and capabilities it proposes are unbalanced.”

Aspin, meanwhile, has begun what he calls a “bottom-up” review of American defense needs that will help shape the defense budget after next year. That review is expected to be completed late this summer, and Aspin has warned that it could bring some changes in the Pentagon spending plan.

In the budget documents obtained by The Times, Aspin formally proposed spending $398 million next year for peacekeeping operations--a figure that he conceded in a speech Thursday might be “too modest.”


As the standoff between Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin and the Russian Parliament continued, Aspin also recommended a plan to provide $400 million in new funds “to continue and expand efforts to cooperatively reduce the threat of weapons of mass destruction by the former Soviet Union.”

He also proposed $40 million to fund “counterproliferation measures” aimed at thwarting the development of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons by such countries as North Korea, Iraq and Iran.

At the same time, however, Aspin proposed spending $45.5 billion on the purchase of weapons and equipment and $38.6 billion on the development of new defense technologies.

The plan calls for production of a new amphibious assault ship and six C-17 transport planes--built in Long Beach, Calif., by McDonnell Douglas Corp.--as well as the development of such new weapons as the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, the Army’s Comanche helicopter, a new Navy attack submarine and the Air Force’s next-generation Stealth fighter jet.

“Our new security won’t be found in merely cutting forces,” Aspin’s statement said. “Our job is to buy the right forces for the right missions for the future. This budget begins to do that.”

At the same time, Aspin made clear that decisions about the funding of weapons production “also will help protect the U.S. defense industrial base,” keeping American workers in defense jobs.


He cited as examples the continued production of Blackhawk helicopters, continued development of the Air Force’s Milstar satellite and a program to improve the Navy’s F-14 fighter jet.

In addition, the Pentagon would spend $1.4 billion to develop a new version of the F/A-18 fighter plane, built partly by the Northrop Corp. in El Segundo, Calif.

“President Clinton has stressed that America’s economic strength is central to its security,” Aspin’s statement said. “Consistent with U.S. military needs and declining threats, defense spending will be cut, which will help reduce the deficit and provide funds to invest for economic growth. The Administration will seek to redirect to domestic needs any defense assets--bases, industries and personnel--rendered redundant by the Cold War.”

To that end, Aspin noted that his 1994 defense spending plan would provide $700 billion to help workers and communities in making the transition from a defense-related economy. It also earmarks $1 billion to advance technologies with both military and civilian uses.

That pool of money, Aspin said, “will facilitate the commercialization of defense research and development.”

The Clinton Administration also has proposed spending $3.76 billion for research and development of missile defenses under the so-called “Star Wars” program--an increase of $35 million over this year’s funding.


But Aspin said that he would revamp the program to reflect new priorities backed by the Administration, focusing primarily on building missile defenses for the protection of troops deployed abroad and only secondarily on defenses for the entire nation.

Pentagon’s Proposed Retreat

Here is the impact of the President’s military plan: Total National Defense Spending 1994: $263.4 billion 1998: $253.9 billion

Current Proposed Active Army divisions 14 12 Navy battle forces* 443 413 Air Force fighter wings 28 24 Bombers 201 191 ICBMs 787 667

* ships and aircraft

Source: Department of Defense