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He Warns Defense Cuts Would 'Tempt Tyrants to Begin Aggression' : Emphasis on Deficits Poses Dangers, Weinberger Says

January 11, 1987|GAYLORD SHAW | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger warned Congress on Saturday against allowing concern over budget deficits to lead to defense cuts that would "tempt tyrants to begin aggression" or encourage the Soviet Union to use "military might to support its ruthless goals."

In a 353-page annual report to Congress, released by the Pentagon two days in advance of its presentation on Capitol Hill, Weinberger used strong rhetoric as he called upon legislators to join him in formulating a "truly robust deterrent" based on U.S. technology and doctrine "rather than on matching the Soviets tank for tank, ship for ship, or aircraft for aircraft."

'Modest Investment'

The key, Weinberger said, is approval of President Reagan's proposed defense budget calling for $312 billion in outlays for fiscal 1988 and $332.4 billion for fiscal 1989, which he called "a most modest investment in security."

The aggregate increases proposed for the next two years, Weinberger said, will compensate for overall reductions of 7% that Congress has made over the last two years in its efforts to hold down the federal deficit.

"In recent years," Weinberger said in the report's introduction, "some in Congress and elsewhere have focused so sharply on reducing the federal deficit that they have mistakenly perceived the defense budget primarily as their most favorite target for budget cutting."

This, he said, "fails to comprehend . . . the size or scope of the threat to our freedom posed by the Soviets' steadily increasing offensive military power."

Returning to the theme later in the report, he said: "American defense budgets should be based on defense needs, not on political expediency or short-term fiscal goals."

'Keep America Safe, Free'

Reagan's new budget, outlined for Congress when it reconvened last week, "presents a coherent plan for addressing those needs at a prudent and efficient pace," Weinberger said. "Our goal is to keep America safe and free, not just as safe or as free as short-term fiscal or political goals allow.

"Anyone who says we cannot afford to do what we must to keep freedom is halfway along the road to losing it."

Reagan's proposed defense budget seeks a 3% increase after inflation--the smallest increase yet proposed by the Administration. Weinberger called it the minimum required to offset two years of "deep reductions" in Administration requests. He said that those cuts "jeopardize our military progress to date, delay the achievement of a safer level of security and increase the eventual cost of this prudent defense posture."

The Pentagon chief said that, while "the growth of Soviet military procurement seems to have leveled off somewhat over the last decade," Moscow still has spent 30% more than the United States in the last 15 years.

Stresses Need for 'Star Wars'

He outlined what he described as extensive efforts to modernize Soviet missile systems and said that the developments underscore the need for Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, also known as "Star Wars," for which the President is seeking a 1988 outlay of $5.34 billion, a hefty increase over the $3.23-billion allocation in fiscal 1987.

"The SDI seeks to move us toward a safer world: one with reduced levels of arms and deterrence based on defending against an attack, rather than retaliating after an attack," Weinberger said. "We will continue to try to convince the Soviet Union to join us in working out a stable transition toward this sane and achievable goal."

Emphatically reasserting his insistence that SDI will not be used as a bargaining chip in nuclear arms reduction negotiations in Geneva, Weinberger said that "we will never give it up," even though Congress has slashed funds for the program in the last two years.

Turning to terrorism, he accused the Soviet Union of seeking to promote, either "directly or through its proxies," subversion and insurgency in all parts of the world intended to undermine U.S. security interests.

Unconventional Deterrence

"These shadow wars carried on by guerrillas, assassins, terrorists or subversives" sometimes must be combatted with unconventional means, "since more traditional forms of deterrence are not likely to dissuade those who practice these subtle, ambiguous methods of aggression," he said.

The Reagan budget allocates $2.5 billion to prepare special operations forces to wage small-scale wars if they are called on during the new fiscal year. The figure is more than five times the $440 million allowed for those forces when Reagan took office.

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