Pentagon to forgo budget 'extras'; lobbies gird for battle
Washington — For the Pentagon, a trimmed and balanced Us budget means stretching out the money it already has requested and asking allies to do more to meet the West's global defense responsibilities.
As the only government department not asked to cut its request ($159 billion) for fiscal 1981, the Defense Department will most likely "absorb" requests it had planned to make for extra money for fuel and hardware, Pentagon analysts predict.
Japan and some of the smaller NATO allies, at meetings to prepare for NATO's semi-annual ministerial strategy session in May, may be asked to increase both defense spending and defense activity, the analysts add.
President Carter March 14 repeated his pledge to NATO allies to increase real defense spending by 3 percent annually -- a pledge the allies also accepted but which not all are keeping.
"I will maintain my commitment to a strong defense and to the level of real growth in defense spending which we pledged to out NATO allies. But the Defense Department will not be immune from budget austerity," Mr. Carter said.
The President added that he would require the Pentagon to make "savings that do not affect our military readiness" and that he considered the proposed defense budget "adequate." This seemed to dash the Air Force's hopes for an extra $3.5 billion, the Army's for $850 million, and the NAvy's for $300 million.
A few hours before the Presdient spoke, Prof. William R. Van Cleave of the University of Southern California, a member of the hawkish Committee on the Present Danger, told the House Armed Services Committee that the fiscal 1981 request and the Pentagon's five-year defense program were "too little and far to late in their schedule" to meet the growing Soviet strategic threat."
Dr. Van Cleave called for more speedy development of the MX missile and a series of "quick fixes," some of them costly, in other US missile, bomber, submarine, and supporting programs.
Pentagon budget officials have held off making requests for fuel costs not covered in existing budgets. These may total as much as $4 billion in fiscal 1980 and $4.5 billion in fiscal 1981, which begins Oct. 1.More money is also needed for military pay raises. Persons close to Secretary Brown have told congressional staffers that both fuel and pay hikes may now have to be "absorbed" without new requests.
The keynote for requests to allies to do more in the West's common defense, say White House staffers, was a March 12 speech by National Security Affairs Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski urging "tangible actions" to meet the Soviet threat.
Although airborne forces in the US might be moved to the Indian Ocean or Persian gulf in any new emergency, the Army command has also envisioned situations where it might have to draw on the nearly 200,000 personnel now stationed in West Germany for use elsewhere.
This has increased US concerned that European allies, including Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Italy ought to do more stockpiling of ammunition and increase readiness of their own manpower reserves.
To help defend the long Indian Ocean sea lanes between the Far East and the Arabian Sea, where a two-carrier Us task force and 1,800 marines now are deployed in costly operations, Australia recently announced it was reinforcing allied naval patrols with its old aircraft carrier, the Melbourne, and several other warships. Admiral Sir Anthony Synnot, chief of the Australian Defence Force Staff, ended nine days of planning talks with US officials here March 16.