Dear Mr. Chairman: Defending Defense


RECENT reports of military readiness problems are an inevitable manifestation of the broad inconsistencies between the Clinton administration's declared national security policy, a reduced force structure of 1.4 million recommended by the 1993 Bottom-Up Review, and proposed levels of defense spending. Although today's US military is not ''hollow,'' a wide range of indicators are all disturbing.

*Anecdotal and empirical evidence reveals that a number of combat elements of our military forces are at their lowest level of readiness in over a decade.

*While the size of the US military has steadily decreased, the number of military personnel deployed around the world on various operations has grown dramatically.

*Since Desert Storm, US active forces have been cut by 27 percent. More specifically, Army divisions have been reduced by 30 percent, Navy battleforce ships by 32 percent and Air Force attack/fighter aircraft by 36 percent.

*During the current fiscal year, the Defense Department will cut 15,000 active, reserve, and civilian personnel from its rolls every month. By fiscal year 1999, Defense will employ approximately 1.2 million fewer active, reserve, and civilian personnel than it did in the mid-1980s.

*The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 1.2 million defense-related private-sector jobs will be lost as a result of the Clinton administration's cutbacks in defense spending.

*Nondefense spending by the Defense Department has grown dramatically in recent years.

The Clinton administration's estimate of the amount by which its own defense plan is underfunded has doubled to more than $40 billion in just the past year. We are convinced that the shortfall is more severe. For instance:

*The recent GAO study estimates the Clinton defense budget is underfunded by as much as $150 billion.

*Analysts at the Heritage Foundation estimate that $160 billion to $230 billion is required to address shortfalls and shortcomings of the administration's defense budget.

*The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that defense is underfunded by at least $65 billion and possibly $110 billion.

What's more, even if the shortfall were resolved, the nation would still be left with only a fully funded Clinton defense plan -- a plan we believe to be inadequate for the United States to field and sustain a military force able to protect and promote its national interests around the world. We can and must do better.

We agree with you that the defense budget should not be exempt from efforts to cut unnecessary spending and that identifying these savings is an appropriate first step.

THE bottom line is that even after the Clinton defense budget is ''scrubbed'' for internal savings, a commitment of substantial additional resources to the defense budget will be required. Without this commitment we will fail to reverse the inexorable deterioration of US military forces and capabilities. Moreover, lacking such a commitment, Republicans will also fail to differentiate themselves from this administration's national security policies. This will be politically damaging for a Republican part y that has successfully secured the national security issue at its own on the ''battlefield of ideas'' since the Vietnam War.

Accordingly, our staffs have been working to develop the underpinnings of a viable Republican alternative to the Clinton defense budget. In the very near future we will be prepared to present a specific proposal that represents our common view of a sensible, sustainable, and supportive alternative defense plan.

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