JOHN F. LEHMAN JR. has many opinions. Few are gently expressed. During his six years as secretary of the Navy, Mr. Lehman often derided critics as ``parlor-room Pershings'' or ``armchair strategists.'' In his just-published memoirs he adds ``TV commentators and other naysayers,'' the ``anti-naval'' Pentagon bureaucracy, and CIA ``Pollyannas'' to his list of targets.
His advice to incoming Defense Secretary John Tower is similarly blunt: Move your office across the river to the White House.
In fact, the whole Cabinet should work near the Oval Office, so President Bush's closest counsels are not ``his advance men and his media expert and his makeup artist and his hairdresser,'' Lehman said in a recent interview.
He also recommends that the new Tower team assuming power at the Defense Department:
Save money by putting larger chunks of US armed forces in the reserves.
Allow the Pentagon bureaucracy to halve itself through attrition.
Strengthen civilian control over the military by giving the secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force more power.
John Lehman is the son of a prominent Pennsylvania family - the late Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco, was his cousin. He has a degree from England's Cambridge University on his r'esum'e, as well as service under former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. He is the sort of man who titles a chapter in his Navy secretary memoirs: ``Why I Wanted the Job and How I Got It.''
Cajoling funds out of Congress for a 600-ship fleet is probably his best-known political accomplishment.
Thus, it comes as something of a surprise when he says the US should now have only 450 ships on active duty, with 150 in the reserves. He says the Army should similarly reverse its current ratio of 18 active to 10 reserve divisions.
His reasoning is that the Soviet Union's new attitude toward the West, as exemplified by unilateral troop cuts, makes a real difference in the superpower military balance. For the US, ``the threat has reduced,'' he says.
Not that Lehman equates the military reserves with cold storage. He says the US should adopt the Soviet practice of ``cadre'' units, that is, reserve units that are kept at 50 percent strength.
He also says the US could save money by doing away with some of its foreign commitments. In particular, he says that President Carter's declaration that the US would fight an invasion of the Persian Gulf should be reversed. Gulf oil is more important to Europe than it is to the US, he says, and, thus, West European nations should spend more to defend the area.
``Why should we be the sucker that pays all the cost?'' he asks.
The US national security strategy is also too focused on Europe, according to Lehman. He says the success of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has in the United States ``raised up generations of people who depend on their annual vacations in Europe centering around the various powwows and nuclear planning groups and so forth in NATO councils.''
He says the US should pay more attention to the nations of the Pacific Rim.
In practical terms, this opinion can be interpreted as meaning that the Navy budget should be protected at the expense of the Army and Air Force, but Lehman declines to say this out loud. He says only that there should be harder consideration of ``what priorities ought to be when carving up the pie.''