Of Cap's pique, staff eats, costs overrun, medal well-won
Washington — Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger is normally a mild-mannered fellow whose public reaction to fools and critics seldom goes beyond pursed lips. But the other day he accused columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak of publishing an ''offensive column'' containing ''absolute lies.'' He was responding to a piece in which the authors said Mr. Weinberger was behind a ''Pentagon offensive'' to oust George Shultz from his post as secretary of state. In a tight-jawed statement, Weinberger said he ''challenges the columnists to name a single individual who can corroborate this false charge.''
The Pentagon reported this week that cost overruns on major weapons systems have been kept to a minimum in recent months. The quarterly selected acquisition reports for 64 weapons programs show cost estimates increasing for 29 programs, but dropping for 35. Altogether, this adds up to a 2 percent increase, most of this due to increases in quantities. One exception is the Navy's Tomahawk cruise missile program, which jumped from $11.5 billion to $13 billion (13 percent) over the three-month period due to testing and production problems.
In a related development, a CIA analyst has compared US weapons procurement procedures with those of other countries and found the United States wanting in many respects. ''The very structure of the US system virtually guarantees an overly optimistic or unrealistically low base-cost estimate,'' the report states , while in other countries ''cost estimates approximate actual costs.'' According to this analyst, much of the problem is caused by the ''tortured triangle'' of Congress, Defense Department, and industry tugging and hauling at the weapons budget.
Opposition to cruise and Pershing II missiles in Europe may have subsided, or at least been pushed off the front pages by other events. But there are other missile opponents banging on the White House door. The Inuit Circumpolar Conference representing 100,000 Inuit (Eskimos) in Alaska, Canada, and Greenland wrote President Reagan protesting this month's testing of US cruise missiles over Canada's Northwest Territories and the Beaufort Sea. The Inuit are pushing for a ''nuclear free zone'' in the arctic.
For the first time since the end of the Vietnam war, the Army's elite Green Berets are headed back to Asia. A unit of 150 specialists in ''unconventional warfare'' are soon to be deployed to Okinawa. The Special Forces - made famous by a John Wayne film - dwindled after Vietnam, but are being returned to greater size, status, and activity by the Reagan administration.
Pentagon gadfly William Proxmire has proposed a ''no free lunch amendment'' to a Senate bill designed to restrict taxpayer-subsidized dining rooms at the Pentagon and other federal agencies. The Wisconsin Democrat cites as an example a $2.25 chopped steak platter available in the defense secretary's exclusive dining room that actually costs taxpayers another $12 for preparation and service. ''What we have here are hash-house prices but a haute cuisine atmosphere,'' says the senator.
Also on the food front, the Better Government Association reported recently that Pentagon legislative officers (who lobby lawmakers on behalf of the armed services) last year bought lunch for 671 members of Congress or their staff, often at fancy Capitol Hill restaurants. Said Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D) of Colorado, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, ''Perhaps this is why Ed Meese found there wasn't any hunger in America. The Pentagon is taking everyone to lunch.''
Pentagon spending may be setting peacetime records, but there is at least one area where the military budget is being (almost) frozen. For the coming fiscal year the Defense Department is requesting $139 million for military bands, a mere 1 percent increase in operating costs. ''Those new budget figures are music to my ears,'' said Rep. Thomas Downey (D) of New York, chairman of the Congressional Arts Caucus.
It took a while, but Pfc. Adam T. Raczkowski finally has been awared his Purple Heart. The citation, presented by Army Secretary John Marsh at the Pentagon this week, notes that Mr. Raczkowski ''was wounded as a result of hostile fire and a massive gas bombardment in the area of Chateau Thierry on the Marne River.'' That was in 1918. ''The Army never intends to overlook proper recognition to those who served it well,'' Secretary Marsh said as he pinned the medal on the ex-doughboy's faded uniform.