U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston vowed Saturday to protect the educational benefits of the new GI Bill against budget cuts proposed by the Reagan Administration.
Speaking at a news conference at Patriotic Hall before attending an Armed Forces Day parade in Torrance, Cranston (D-Calif.) said the bill strengthens national security by attracting quality people into the armed services.
As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Cranston co-authored the new GI Bill that upgraded the system of higher-educational benefits for military veterans.
The bill, a three-year test program that began last July, offers new volunteers a guaranteed college education at a time when costs of attending college are exceeding resources of many young people, Cranston said.
The veterans' committee unanimously opposed the President's proposal to eliminate the benefits as part of Administration efforts to cut the federal deficit, Cranston said.
"It is too important in keeping our all-volunteer armed forces strong and modernized to let it (the GI Bill) die," he said.
"Army recruitment specialists have predicted that enlistments by high school graduates would fall off at the rate of 9,000 a year if the Reagan Administration has its way and the new GI Bill is killed," Cranston said.
Cranston, who is up for reelection in November, said recruitment specialists also maintain that elimination of the program would demoralize men and women now in the service who would view the move as a further erosion of military benefits.
"This is the primary way that enlistees will know that they will be guaranteed a college education," he said.
Noting that recruitment specialists from all the armed services had testified in support of the bill, Cranston said he found it hard to understand why the Reagan Administration would move to terminate it at this time.
The United States, he said, has the best, most advanced equipment in the world, but "it's useless without career-oriented people in sufficient number to ensure an effective fighting force.
"It doesn't do the Army much good to have the most sophisticated tank ever developed if the soldier who is responsible for its maintenance can't read the manuals," he said.