Cheney cut weapons programs he criticizes Kerry for opposing

April 30, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney, who has been saying that Sen. John Kerry would be a dangerous commander in chief because he opposed many key weapons that the military now relies on, himself presided over the biggest cutbacks in defense programs in modern history when he was secretary of defense under the first President George Bush.

As Pentagon chief from 1989 to 1993, Cheney canceled or cut back many of the weapons programs - bombers, fighter planes, battle tanks - that he says Kerry tried to deprive the armed forces of.

Many of the Cheney-era cuts were made at the end of the Cold War, when the first Bush administration was seeking to reduce the size of the military and secure a "peace dividend." But some of these downsizing efforts have affected today's U.S. military.

Cheney proposed, for instance, disbanding part of the Army's 4th Infantry Division, the unit that captured former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in December, according to Congressional Quarterly.

"Republicans present themselves as Horatio at the bridge defending the military from unwise cuts, said Loren Thompson, head of the Lexington Institute, a conservative think tank in Arlington, Va. "But Cheney led the mob in dismantling the nation's modernization program when the Cold War ended."

The most recent Bush-Cheney campaign ad depicts weapons such as the B-2 stealth bomber flying over a battlefield and then disappearing into thin air, attempting to convince voters that if Kerry had prevailed back then, U.S. military forces would be underequipped.

Yet, Cheney canceled the B-2 bomber program after 20 planes, even though the Air Force insisted it needed 132. He also canceled the Navy's A-12 bomber and scaled back the Seawolf submarine. He tried to terminate the V-22 Osprey, a plane that takes off and lands like a helicopter and is now considered the Marine Corps' top procurement priority.

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