President Reagan intends to announce next week that he has accepted Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger's budget recommendations for the next fiscal year, rejecting the nearly unanimous proposal of his top advisers that he significantly slow down his military buildup, administration officials said yesterday.
The decision means that Reagan may eventually settle for less than his goal of slashing the deficit in half, to $100 billion, by 1988, the officials said. The only other way to reach that goal would be a new round of domestic spending cuts, which many officials consider unlikely.
Officials said Reagan is expected to emphasize next week that Weinberger has made a "contribution" to reducing the deficit in the fiscal 1986 budget to be submitted to Congress in January. It was not clear whether Reagan will address the defense budget for later years.
Overall, officials said the savings which Weinberger has recommended are far less than those proposed by Office of Management and Budget Director David A. Stockman and other budget advisers. Weinberger's proposed savings come largely out of advancing a military pay raise from next fiscal year to this one; Stockman sought a slowdown in Pentagon procurement as well as a military pay freeze.
Weinberger offered this week to slow down actual defense spending by $6 billion in fiscal 1986, $7 billion in 1987 and $6 billion in 1988, officials said. This compares with Stockman's proposal for $8 billion in 1986, $20 billion in 1987 and $30 billion in 1988.
On the separate track of defense spending "authority," which runs ahead of actual spending, Weinberger proposed savings of $8 billion next year; Stockman wanted to trim $29 billion, officials said.
One official said the final savings may be slightly higher than what Weinberger has outlined, but nonetheless would almost certainly be rejected by Congress as insufficient. "The president proposes and Congress disposes," the official said.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) told reporters yesterday, "We just can't do all the things they want to do to other programs and leave defense virtually unchanged. I must say it's going to have to be substantial on the defense side if we're going to sell the package." Dole also made a similar point earlier in the day at a White House luncheon with Chief of Staff James A. Baker III.
Officials said this week that Weinberger's recommendations include a speed-up of the 1986 military pay raise, which would have the effect of reducing next year's defense budget. Weinberger has proposed a military pay raise of 5.8 percent on July 1, 1985 instead of 7.1 percent on Jan. 1, 1986. The scheduled 4 percent military pay raise next month would not be affected.
In an interview made public yesterday, Reagan said that he has in the past chided Weinberger for trimming his budget requests too early, before they are submitted to Congress.
"I sometimes used to chide Cap and say, 'Look Cap, why don't you leave this stuff in here to let the Congress find it and they'll be happy, because whatever you go up there with, they'll try and reduce it further," Reagan said in a Dec. 6 interview with the conservative weekly, Human Events.
Reagan said "you've got to give Cap credit . . . for what they've done already" in finding defense budget savings. Yesterday, asked about reports that his fiscal advisers were "bogged down with a paralysis because Weinberger won't give anything," Reagan quipped, "They must have just caught me asleep at a Cabinet meeting. It wasn't paralysis."