Senate is unlikely to match House cuts in the defense budget, Nunn says

March 12, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said yesterday his panel will not recommend

trimming nearly as much from the defense budget this year as the $15 billion cut approved by the House, for fear it would have an adverse impact on jobs.

In an interview with reporters, Sen. Sam Nunn said he did not see how Congress could go much beyond the $7 billion in reductions that President Bush has proposed for fiscal 1993 "without having significant adverse effects on military personnel and on defense-industry personnel."

At the same time, the Georgia Democrat left open the amount the committee might recommend for medium-term cuts, covering the period from fiscal 1993, which begins Oct. 1, through fiscal 1997 -- the five-year period normally used for defense planning.

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Democrat Les Aspin of Wisconsin, has recommended slashing $91 billion during the fiscal 1993-1997 period. The president has recommended a $48 billion reduction.

Mr. Nunn and the Senate Armed Services Committee have traditionally been more reluctant than the House to slash defense spending sharply. Mr. Nunn said yesterday he would not propose a medium-term figure until the Senate begins work on its budget, in about a week.

The defense spending issue is expected to be particularly critical this year because many lawmakers want to use the expected "peace dividend" from defense savings to finance increases in domestic spending, cut taxes or reduce the budget deficit.

The more that defense spending is cut, the more, they reason, will be left over for these other uses. Other key lawmakers have proposed slashing anywhere from $100 billion to $350 billion from the defense budget over the next five years.

But with the economy still in a recession, many lawmakers have begun having second thoughts about slashing defense spending too far, lest it exacerbate the nation's unemployment problem by throwing military personnel and defense industry workers out of jobs.

The Bush administration's request is for a defense budget of $281 billion for fiscal 1993, a decline of 4.5 percent after inflation from the current fiscal year. The reductions would come mainly by eliminating several major weapons systems.

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