Senate and House panels yesterday voted major cuts in U.S. military aid and military advisory groups stationed in frendly countries throughout the world.
Ignoring Carter administration warnings of a negative political impact, the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Foreign Assistance voted to stop long-standing U.S. military grants to Indonesia and Thailand. A letter from the State Department, read to the senators just before their decision, expressed concern about an Asian perception that "the U.S. is losing interest in its longtime friends" now that the Indochina war is over.
The executive branch had requested $15 million in military grants to Indonesia and $3 million to Thailand in the international security assistance bill. The Senate subcommittee, which has opposed U.S. military grants except in "extraordinary circumstances," shifted the Indonesian and Thai programs to government-backed loans for arms purchases.
Despite executive branch arguments including fervent pleas from Lt. Gen. Howard Fish, the Pentagon's chief overseas arms specialist, both the Senate subcommittee and the House International Relations Committee made heavy cuts in U.S. military advisory groups stationed abroad.
The executive branch recommended such groups in 25 countries, a substantial reduction from the 33 countries where U.S. advisory groups are now stationed. The House committee yesterday reduced this to 10 countries and the Senate subcommittee to 17 countries.
Among the countries which lawmakers decided should lose military advisory groups (now renamed "defense field offices") are:
Ethiopia which has closed U.S. installations and expelled many Americans. The House committee voted to cut all new military aid to Ethiopia and the Senate committee is considered likely to follow suit.
Argentina, which has rejected future U.S. military aid following U.S. criticism and a recommended aid cut on human rights grounds.
Pakistan, whose Prime Minister Zulfiker Ali Bhutto has bitterly criticized the United States. (However, the Senate subcommittee asked for further executive branch information on Pakistan to be submitted today.)
Taiwan, where the U.S. military is phasing down in keeping with promises made to China.
Other military groups cut in yesterday's voting were: House committee - Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Iran, Japan, Kuwait, Liberia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Venezucla, Zaire, Senate subcommittee - Bolivia, Colombia, Japan, Venezuela.
Both panels approved permission for as many as six U.S. military men to serve advisory functions in any American embassy around the world.
In another action of major significance, both congressional panels declined to authorize the $100 million requested by the Carter administration as the U.S. payment to a future "Zimbabwe Development Fund" to aid the transition to majority rule in Rhodesia.
Both committees adopted language suggesting they would approve such a contribution when and if a majority-rule plan is worked out with white-ruled Rhodesia, Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance, in a letter to the Senate group, accepted that body's expression of intention though he said he would have preferred authorization of the money.
The House committee adopted a plan to convert the proposed $100 million Rhodesian adjustment fund into aid to give black "front-line states" which are pushing for majority rule in Rhodesia, plus two smaller black majority states. No such plan was presented in the Senate unit.
The House committee, which decided Monday to cut the $30 million military aid plan for Zaire in half, yesterday rejected a drive by Rep. Don Bonker (D-Wash.) to cut out the rest of the fund. A State Department official argued that the additional cut would be "a difficult signal" to an ally that is under armed attack.