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Defense and Deficit Debate

March 13, 1988

Cordesman's piece justifying the bloated and wasteful expenditure on preparation for war, brings to mind the old bromide "figures don't lie, etc."

I want to take issue with his misrepresentations that "1978-87 period during which, despite the rise in real defense spending that occurred during the Reagan Administration, the Soviet Union produced more tanks, artillery, weapons, armored vehicles, etc." I refer to a 1986 article in The Times quoting from a report by the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency to the Congress that Soviet defense spending between 1974-1985 grew at only 2% per year as compared with a 4% per year rise in the preceding decade. The agencies concluded that despite this minuscule increase in defense spending the Soviet Union made significant gains during the decade both in strategic forces and conventional capabilities. In response to these conclusions, Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wis.) said, "If true, it was a neat trick."

On the very crucial question of the percent of the national budget expended for defense, Cordesman has come up with a figure of 25%. According to the respectable Friends Committee on National Legislation, current defense expenditures are 40% of the FY 1988 budget presented by President Reagan. However, that is not all. An additional 16% of the budget represents the cost of past wars and veterans' benefits. Taken as a whole, the current percent of the federal budget allocated to defense is an astounding 56% or over twice Cordesman's figure. Given the inaccuracies stated, how can any rational reader accept Cordesman's conclusions?

IRVING WILLNER

Monterey Park

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