When Congress concludes debate over the recently proposed defense budget, one of the most quoted documents will have been a 1986 report from the Blue Ribbon Commission on Defense Management. David Packard, 74, co-founder of Palo Alto-based Hewlett-Packard Co. and a deputy secretary of defense in the Nixon Administration, was the commission's chairman.
Q: Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger has asked Congress for a two-year defense appropriation of $312 billion, an increase that's 3% above inflation. Still, many Democrats believe it's too much, given America's $169.8-billion deficit. How do you view the Pentagon's proposed budget? A: I've told the White House that a real increase of 1 1/2% per year would be more realistic. It's closer to what Congress eventually will agree to, and if the department (of Defense) does a careful job of planning within a five-year program, it could maintain an adequate defense capability. Obviously Secretary Weinberger was afraid that (whatever figure) he presented, Congress would cut it back anyway. I'm inclined to think he presented his budget at a higher level than what he anticipated he would eventually get. Q: Why does Washington keep spending large amounts for weapons if it's generally conceded that smaller defense budgets would be adequate? A: The (armed) services work with the secretary to get a budget put together, but the secretary is never able to include everything that each wants. Quite often the services will campaign with the Congress. Sometimes they'll get their defense-contractor friends to lobby for things that the secretary didn't even want in the budget. When I was at the Pentagon (1969-71), we decided we didn't need any more Navy A-7s. Well, the A-7 plant was in Congressman George Mahan's (D-Tex.) district, and he always put some A-7s back in the program whether we wanted them or not.