House Armed Services Committee Chairman Les Aspin (D-Wis.) warned yesterday that both the House and Senate versions of the 1987 budget would squeeze spending for military personnel and combat readiness while continuing to pump money into weapons.
Aspin's criticism of the spending mix in those budgets came as the Reagan administration continued to lambaste the budget passed Thursday by the Democratic-controlled House as damaging to national security in terms of allocations for defense and foreign aid.
"Not only is it a recipe for disaster, but we find the House budget numbers to be totally irresponsible in the defense and foreign policy implications," said White House spokesman Edward Djerejian, echoing President Reagan's criticism of the House budget as "anti-defense" and a "breach of faith with our common duty to protect this nation."
Aspin's criticism was not aimed at the level of defense spending authority in the two budget drafts -- $301 billion in the Senate and $285 billion in the House, compared with Reagan's request of $320 billion. Rather, it involved what he described as the "esoteric" but "significant" question of long-term spending authority versus outlays, or actual spending, in a given year.
What both chambers have done, as Reagan did in his budget proposal, is put less in the bank for the Pentagon than it will take next year to sustain the multiyear spending-authority numbers in their budgets, according to Aspin.
Thus there will be more pressure to cut programs that require immediate expenditures, such as personnel and supplies, than to curb weapons procurement, for which payments are spread over more than one year, Aspin said.
"If you were to poll liberals, moderates and conservatives, I can tell you all three [groups] would overwhelmingly agree that's not the way to cut the budget," he added.
Aspin urged House-Senate conferees on the budget, who may begin negotiations next week, to try to work out the problem, which he called a "very tough nut to crack politically." Congress is under pressure to hold down outlays for next year because of the deficit ceiling imposed by the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings budget-balancing law.
Although Aspin emphasized that he was not proposing such a course, he said a "rational ratio" might be the Senate's outlay number of $282 billion and the House spending authority figure of $285 billion.