WASHINGTON — The Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously approved Frank C. Carlucci's nomination to be the nation's 16th secretary of defense Friday, clearing the way for him to succeed retiring Caspar W. Weinberger within days.
Carlucci, who has been President Reagan's national security adviser since last December, is expected to easily win the approval of the full Senate, as early as next week, and step immediately into the fray over Pentagon spending.
Less than 24 hours after hearing the nominee pledge full cooperation with Congress, the Armed Services Committee recommended him to the full Senate by an 18-0 vote. There was no debate, and the session lasted only about five minutes.
Called a Pragmatist
Carlucci, considered one of the "pragmatists" in the top levels of the Reagan Administration, was nominated by the President for the Pentagon post after Weinberger announced that he would resign because of his wife's failing health.
During his career, Carlucci already has been confirmed by the Senate for six different posts. In a 2 1/2-hour appearance before the committee Thursday, he was lauded by both Democrats and Republicans.
Carlucci first joined the federal government as a Foreign Service officer in 1956. He served as deputy director of the CIA during the Jimmy Carter Administration and was deputy defense secretary for the first two years of the Reagan Administration. He became White House national security adviser in the wake of the Iran-Contra scandal and the resignation of Rear Adm. John M. Poindexter from the post.
Defense Bill Gains
As the committee approved his nomination Friday, it was also disclosed that House and Senate negotiators had settled on a fiscal 1988 defense authorization bill totaling about $296 billion, $16 billion less than President Reagan requested last January.
On Thursday, Carlucci acknowledged that more cuts--in new weapons systems and in the numbers of Americans in military service--may be necessary in the years just ahead.
Carlucci's tone was distinctly more conciliatory than Weinberger's combative defense of Pentagon spending during the years when he presided over an unprecedented peacetime military buildup. But the nominee warned against further cuts in the Strategic Defense Initiative, the controversial "Star Wars" program.
Compromise on 'Star Wars'
At the outset, the Administration asked for $5.7 billion in "Star Wars" funds for fiscal 1988, which began Oct. 1. While the Senate cut the authorization to $4.5 billion, the House slashed it to $3.1 billion. The compromise measure announced Friday put the figure at $3.9 billion.
In his confirmation hearing, Carlucci warned that a cut below $3.9 billion would be disastrous for the program.
Besides completing a new Pentagon budget with Congress looking to the Defense Department to help deal with the federal deficit, Carlucci is expected soon to become a key figure in selling Congress on a U.S.-Soviet treaty banning intermediate-range nuclear weapons.
He told the Armed Services Committee Thursday that he would oppose a move to make the treaty approval contingent on reductions in conventional forces in Europe.