The Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to start a major rewrite of President Carter's defense budget today in the latest example of Congress taking the advice of military leaders over their civilian superiors.
The committee's pro-military attitude this year is especially significant because that unit traditionally has been less hawkish than the House Armed Services Committee in deciding which programs should be funded.
Sen. John G. Tower of Texas, chairman of the Republican policy Committee and ranking minority member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sais yesterday that the Congress is especially reluctant this year to take the advice of civilian analysts over hat of uniformed military leaders.
"There is a feeling that things have gone back to the old McNamara approach" under Carter, Tower said, referring to former defense secretary Robert S. McNamara, who stressed the systems analysis approach in making Pentagon decisions in the 1960s.
"There's been too much degradation of the professional military advice" by Carter and his Office of Management and Budget, Tower asserted in an interview.
Although Tower is speaking as a minority party leader, the Democrat-controlled air power subcommittee has voted to recommend today to its parent committee that several of Carter's major defense decisions be reversed.
Instead of going along with Defense Secretary Harold Brown and postponing the Marine Corps' planned switch to an advanced V/STOL (Vertical and Short Take-Off and Landing) aircraft, the subcommittee is recommending taking the advice of Marine Commandant Louis H. Wilson.
Under the subcommittee plan, the Marines would not have to buy A4 fighter bombers, as Brown has recommended, but would get the $87 million the Corps wants in fiscal 1979 to hasten the development of the advanced Harrier V/STOL FIGHTER-bomber.
Also, the advice of Carter and Brown to shut down the Vought A7 fighter-bomber production line in Dallas on grounds the plane is obsolete would be rejected under another part of the subcommittee rewrite of the administration's defense plan.
Vought would get a new lease on life through an order of 21 trainer versions of the A7 under the subcommittee plan expected to win Senate approval. This would add about $200 million to the Carter budget. The A7s would go to the Air National Guard.
The Grumman F14 and McDonnell Douglas-Northrop F18 fighter-plane programs also would get additional money under the subcommittee rewrite, $100 million and $160 million, respectively according to industry and military sources.
While those recommended changes in the aircraft part of the Carter budget could be attributed in large measure to political pressure exerted by the lawmakers from the states where the planes are built, the rewrite now under way in Congress goes beyond parochial interests.
Both the House and Senate military committees are developing shipbuilding programs that are closer to what the uniformed Navy wants than the plan recommended by Carter and Brown.
The House Armed Services Committee, which continued markup yesterday of its bill authorizing money for the Pentagon for fiscal 1979, has recommended going along with Adm. James L. Holloway, chief of naval operations, by buying another Nimitz nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.