On October 27th The Washington Post published your open letter to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger in which you raised a number of concerns about the future of the defense budget if Congress adopted the Gramm-Rudman deficit reduction plan. Your expressed concerns disturbed me enough that I sat in on your Armed Services Committee meeting with Sen. Phil Gramm to hear him answer your questions.
Les, now it's time for you to help us understand your thinking.
In your letter you said to the secretary, "In fact, with Gramm-Rudman in place, you're going to preside over the largest peacetime cutback in history."
In light of the fact that the Democratic alternative to Gramm-Rudman makes a much larger increase in the amount to be cut from defense, how could you possibly have voted for that plan?
My concern about your position is germane because you may be the only conduit for getting some of the folks on your side of the aisle to look at the Democratic plan's drastic impact on our nation's defenses.
As the president negotiates with Gorbachev next year and in 1987 on issues of peace, will your Democratic majority in the House be undermining his ability to negotiate from strength?
There is another problem. Because of your stated and respected expressions of concern about the original Gramm-Rudman-Hollings proposal, you must admit that your votes for even more serious cuts in defense weaken your credibility as a pro-defense member of Congress. Your actions have certainly confused me as to what your position is. You said Republicans might be cutting defense too much, and then turned around and voted for a plan that could gut our country's defense.
In your letter you went on to classify Gramm- Rudman as the "dumbest piece of legislation I have seen in my 15 years on Capitol Hill." If that was your judgment then, I can't wait to see your description of the defense-gutting Democratic plan that is their alleged compromise.
In case you have forgotten, one of your criticisms of our legislation is that it "laced together a legislative straitjacket that denies the President any priority-setting authority . . . " The plan your fellow Democrats have proposed has taken our restriction substantially further.
Sen. Gramm told us at your Armed Services Committee briefing that under the Senate proposal, the maximun sequestration of defense spending would be 45 percent. That was with only debt-service and social Security exempted from sequestration.
Under the original House Democratic proposal, which you supported, if one assumed a $25 billion sequestration, defense could have suffered a $13.5 billion cut versus $4.8 billion under our proposal. Even with the new proposed "compromise," which apparently assumed a $172 billion deficit from fiscal 1986 and a 50-50 split in eligible sequestrations between defense and nondefense spending, the former takes a disproportionate cut inasmuch as it is less than 30 percent of our total budget.
The updated estimates of the '86 deficit, by the Ways and Means Committee staff are for $190 to $200 billion. For the sake of argument, let us postulate the lower figure. That means $18 billlion might have to be sequestered in this fiscal year; $9 billion would come from defense.
Under our proposal, projecting a deficit of $180 billion for '86, the amount subject to sequestration would be $10 billion, $4.5 billion of which would come from defense.
In short, even the so-called "compromise" would take twice as much from defense as the original Gramm-Rudman-Hollings proposal
While I shared your original concerns over the impact of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings amendment on defense, it is clear that our proposal is certainly more evenhanded and realistic than what the House Democrats are calling for in the name of compromise.
I just don't see how you could vote for the Democratic proposal or can support the proposed compromise after your criticisms of our more equtable plan. Either you are concerned about defense or you appear to be condoning the politicization of this issue. Les, we need your support on this issue. Please don't let us down.