A skirmish has broken out at the Pentagon over one of the rare budget-cutting pledges that Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger has made to the Office of Management and Budget.
The battle is over the $5.3 million that Weinberger has said he will trim from the $59.5 million that the DOD had planned to spend producing films next year. But other DOD officials are concerned that the cuts will affect "intensive technical training in weapons systems" as well as "basic combat readiness," according to a department spokesman.
In April, Weinberger wrote OMB Director David A. Stockman that he was concerned that DOD personnel hadn't gotten the Reagan administration's message to hold down audio-visual costs and that he was going to take a hand in the matter personally. The OMB had told all agencies in 1981 to reduce their spending for publications and audio-visual products. If agencies didn't want to cut their spending, they had to explain why.
"A review of the amounts of budget estimates recently indicates that potential exists to make further reductions in these areas," Weinberger wrote the service secretaries and DOD agency heads April 25. "Therefore, I have reported lower amounts to OMB and indicated that I would direct reductions to the components of the department which would reduce the FY 1984 estimates."
Audio-visual spending at the DOD was $57 million in fiscal 1981. It dropped to $54.2 million in fiscal 1982 but rebounded to an all-time high of $57.9 million in fiscal 1983.
DOD's original budget submission to Congress for fiscal 1984 showed audio-visual spending of $59.5 million. Weinberger has pledged that it will be held to $54.2 million.
Lewis S. Clement, deputy DOD director for audio- visual management policy, said that a report that "is about to go back up through channels" will show that DOD service and agency chiefs oppose the cut.
The consensus, he said, is that "combat readiness will be affected and so will training on many new weapons systems." About 35 percent of the Pentagon's audio- visual costs are for training films, he said.
Clement said that top DOD officials will have to decide whether to tell Stockman the cuts can't be made. "We would think so," he said, being careful to point out that he is only reflecting the views of the officials who commented on Weinberger's directive. "But I don't want to sound like I'm opposing the message being sent by Weinberger. It's a decision he may have to make."
OMB officials were unavailable for comment.