WASHINGTON -- The prestigious Brookings Institution jumped into the ever-widening defense debate yesterday with a study claiming that the nation was running out of "demons and villains" to arm against and should chop its military budget by one-third to one-half over the coming decade.
Authors of the study -- to be presented today to the House Budget Committee -- said their proposed slashes would save from $316 billion to $424 billion by 2001. Even with those cuts, they said, the United States still would spend more than $2 trillion on defense in the decade.
The analysis called for terminating such expensive weapons programs as the B-2 bomber, the Seawolf attack submarine and the C-17 long-range transport plane, and delaying production of advanced new Air Force and Navy fighter planes.
The departure point for the proposed deep reductions would be the Bush administration's planned "base force" -- today's military reduced by 25 percent by the mid-1990s and then kept at their new levels.
Gen. Colin L. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended the planned reductions as adequate yesterday in testimony before the House defense appropriations subcommittee.
The plans already call for shrinking the Navy to 448 ships from 536 and cutting troops in Europe to 150,000 from more than 300,000, General Powell said. He outlined other cuts in air, ground and sea forces.
None of this proved overly impressive to the Brookings analysts, John D. Steinbruner, director of the institution's foreign policy studies, and William W. Kaufmann, longtime Brookings defense analyst and former Pentagon consultant.
The authors fastened on some words of General Powell to fortify their proposals for much larger reductions starting in 1996 after the present ones have been made.
As quoted in April by Army Times, an independent weekly, General Powell said, "I would be very surprised if another Iraq occurred. Think hard about it, I'm running out of demons, I'm running out of villains. . . . I'm down to [Cuban President Fidel] Castro and [North Korean leader] Kim Il Sung."