The Reagan Administration originally proposed a defense budget of $323 billion for fiscal 1989, beginning next Oct. 1. But, under the deficit reduction plan agreed on by the White House and congressional leaders, the Pentagon will have to live with about $30 billion less. That is a painful prospect for the military services and their civilian bosses. But Frank C. Carlucci, the new defense secretary, appears to be going about it in the right way.
Historically, when faced with serious budget squeezes in military spending, both Congress and the Pentagon have tended to achieve the savings by stretching out the development and production of weapons in the pipeline. Such savings are illusory; stretch-outs, in the long run, result in higher costs for the production of smaller numbers of weapons.
Carlucci has let the services know that this time they should concentrate on eliminating entire programs so that the surviving weapon systems can be funded more properly.
Equally important, the services have been instructed to submit their own plans for where the ax should fall, subject to changes by higher authority, instead of leaving matters to an unpredictable Congress. The potential victims of the downsizing of forces are said to include two new aircraft carriers, the Air Force's Midgetman missile and the Army's LHX helicopter. Consideration also will be given to reducing troop strength.