White House chief of staff Donald T. Regan, when he returns to Washington next week, will tell outspoken budget director David A. Stockman to tone down his rhetoric on farm policies and get back in line with administration policies on military pensions, senior administration officials said today.
These officials said that Regan would tell Stockman to stop calling for cuts in military pensions and to tone down his language about the need to curb farm subsidies.
Stockman referred to the pension program as "a scandal . . . an outrage" in testimony Feb. 5 before the Senate Budget Committee. He charged that "institutional forces in the military are more concerned about protecting their retirement benefits than they are about protecting the security of the American people."
Subsequently, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, President Reagan differed with his budget director, saying that military personnel are called upon to make extraordinary sacrifices.
Reagan also distanced himself, though not as sharply, from Stockman's view that farmers who face foreclosure have only themselves to blame. Stockman had said, "For the life of me, I can't figure out why the taxpayers have the responsibility to go in and refinance bad debt willingly incurred by consenting adults who went out and bought farm land when prices were going up and thought they could get rich."
Stockman's original comments prompted Regan, in his first week as White House chief of staff, to take the budget director aside and "chide" him, according to officials. But on Wednesday, at a breakfast meeting with reporters in Washington, Stockman repeated his comments in somewhat softer form and said he had "no second thoughts" about his Senate testimony.
"When he does it once, it might be an outburst, but when he does it a second time you have to wonder what he's doing," an official quoted Regan as saying.
A senior official said that Regan would "remonstrate" with Stockman in an effort to get him at least publicly in step with the president.
But this official acknowledged that Stockman's remarks might have helped focus attention on administration budget-cutting proposals and said the budget director's job was not on the line.
Some White House officials have speculated that Stockman is likely to leave of his own accord once Congress reaches a decision on the pending budget proposals.
White House spokesman Larry Speakes was asked today whether any effort would be made to quiet Stockman and replied: "I think we'll just have to wait and see."
Rep. Ron Marlenee (R-Mont.), a member of the House Agriculture Committee, called for Stockman's dismissal in a letter to the president today. Marlenee said that farmers and ranchers who supported Reagan felt "betrayed" and "outraged" by Stockman's comments about farmers in financial trouble. He told Reagan that the budget director "wouldn't know a bucket of manure if he dropped his calculator into it."
Also this week, Stockman's mother, Carol Stockman, told an Iowa radio station that his recent comments about farmers "don't set too well with me."
"We've had an abundance of crops, and we're just not getting any money at all for our crops," she said. "When I looked at our books last week and found out how much money we lost, I was awed. But, you know, we've chosen this kind of a life."
The Stockmans have about 45 acres of vineyards and 150 acres of corn and soybeans on their Michigan farm.
Edwin L. Dale Jr., spokesman for Stockman's Office of Management and Budget, said, "Dave has talked to his mother, and they love each other as always. She told him she didn't mean what came out over the news."
On other budget issues, Speakes denied a published report that Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) has prepared an alternative White House list of budget-cutting proposals if Congress rejects the current ones.
"There's no alternative list of budget cuts that represents a White House fallback position," Speakes said. "The senator was apparently referring to a list of cuts that had been produced by the Senate Budget Committee for review by the various committees on the president's budget.
Dole said today that the list to which he referred was prepared last month by that panel's staff to indicate which of Reagan's proposed spending cuts were more likely to be enacted.