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Defense Witness

July 12, 1987

The letters by Joseph C. Kresse Jr. and John B. Ona published on June 28 (responding to Warren Bennis' June 14 column, "Japan's Business Prowess More Myth Than Reality") express an opinion shared by many, if not most, Americans: namely, that large U.S. expenditures for defense are a major contributor to our nation's current economic woes. Unfortunately, those who support this view seldom address some important facts.

For example, despite the news media's and the popular characterization of the U.S. defense budget as "a massive buildup," "bloated," "runaway," or "out of control," the portion of the federal budget devoted to defense actually has declined from 46% under John F. Kennedy to the present level of less than 30%. Meanwhile, "transfer payments" by the U.S. government (rough translation: social programs) account for a growing share of the budget.

Also weak is the argument that defense programs--by supposedly diverting resources that could go into production of food, shelter or transport--are not only immoral but poor economics. While defense programs do not have the beneficial multiplier effects on economic growth that some other forms of investment do, I seriously question whether the American people actually would put additional capital into food, shelter or transport.

The increasing flood of purchases of luxury cars, suntan lamps and electronics goods suggests that we, as a people, would not. If I have to choose between a device that sits on top of my stereo speaker system and flashes lights in time to music or a device that flashes a light to convey the intelligence that another nation is launching intercontinental ballistic missiles, I, for one, will take the latter every time.

ROBERT B. ORMSBY

Newhall

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