Chairman James R. Jones (D-Okla.) of the House Budget Committee yesterday attacked Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger for suggesting that those who seek defense spending cuts are undermining national security.
Saying that many in Congress "have deep disagreements with your policies," Jones said, "We, too, feel that we are seeking to do what is best for our nation. Just as we respect your principles, we expect this administration to respect our integrity and sincerity and patriotism."
Jones, whose committee will recommend how much Congress should allocate to defense, has indicated that he will try to hold the military spending increase next year to 5 percent after allowing for inflation.
Weinberger appeared before the Budget Committee to defend a Pentagon budget that calls for a 10.3 percent increase in these "real" terms: from $216.4 billion in fiscal 1983 to $238.6 billion in fiscal 1984 in dollars adjusted for inflation. He has said in a series of congressional appearances that the United States cannot afford to spend any less than that, given the Soviet threat.
The ballooning federal deficit is causing many of the Defense Department's traditional allies to waver, however, with the remarks of Rep. Bud Shuster (R-Pa.) at yesterday's Budget Committee hearing a case in point.
"My friends call me a hawk, my enemies call me a hawk, so I guess I'm a hawk," Shuster told Weinberger. "But Mr. Secretary, I'm a troubled hawk. If someone like me is concerned, I think that should convey a message to my friends at the Defense Department."
Weinberger, as he has done in several previous hearings, displayed a series of colored charts to depict the Soviet military threat. This time, House Majority Leader James C. Wright Jr. (D-Tex.) counterattacked with his own set of charts, setting off ripples of laughter in the committee room. At issue, said Wright, is "what do we actually need, what we cannot do without without being foolish, and what we can afford."
The embattled defense secretary said he is considering closing some military bases to save money, actions which are traditionally contested by members of Congress whose districts are affected.
Rep. Richard B. Cheney (R-Wyo), chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, recommended last month that Weinberger propose closing bases to demonstrate to the public that he was trying to cut the fat out of the defense budget.
In another hearing on the defense budget yesterday, Alice M. Rivlin, director of the Congressional Budget Office, made these points before the House Armed Services Committee:
* If Reagan's budget is approved, defense spending would jump from $136 billion in fiscal 1980 to $386 billion in 1988, "representing real growth of 75 percent, or about 7.3 percent a year.
* "At least for the next few years, defense spending need not rekindle inflation or retard growth in overall employment.
* "There is the serious risk that rising defense spending, if not offset by other policies, could increase federal deficits to choke off economic expansion in the longer run.
* "Defense spending need not adversely affect overall employment." No matter if $10 billion were spent on defense or non-defense activities, 250,000 jobs would be created, or 25,000 jobs for each $1 billion.
* Of 60 major defense programs in the fiscal 1984 budget analyzed by CBO, 25 dropped in price from last year's projection while 35 went up.