Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger caustically attacked a House committee yesterday for budget cuts that he charged would create a "strategy of weakness" and threaten U.S. military capabilities.
"Our strategy is to reduce risk, not to put our heads in the sand and ignore threats to ourselves and our allies, all for the sake of a tidy balance sheet," Weinberger said in an address to about 300 members of the American Security Council Foundation, a private, prodefense organization.
Weinberger, using what he called "very plain language," lashed out at the House Armed Services Committee's efforts to strip $35 billion from President Reagan's 1987 budget authorization request of $320 billion.
Weinberger said those budget reductions, including elimination of a pay raise for military personnel and cutbacks in requests for new weapons and equipment, would devastate the nation's armed services.
"Some in Congress see our budget only as an outlet for their frustration with the deficit," Weinberger said, adding, "We will ask our troops to risk their lives while others refuse to risk their political fortunes."
"It's a better bill than they deserve because of what they did with Gramm-Rudman," countered Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, saying the budget deficit reduction act forced the committee to make the cuts. "All kinds of people were warning him Reagan at the time that this was going to happen."
Weinberger said the House panel's elimination of a 4 percent military pay raise would jeopardize recent improvements in the caliber of recruits and the military's ability to keep highly trained personnel needed to operate sophisticated weaponry and equipment.
The defense secretary also criticized the committee for reducing funds for nine new Navy ships, additional tactical fighters, antitank weapons and missiles, including the MX.
"But there is more, and it is worse," Weinberger said. "Overall, the House proposes cutting 18 percent from the research and development effort that is the very foundation upon which the future security of our nation depends."
The House panel has not yet completed work on its budget authorization bill. The Senate Armed Services Committee's version of the same measure reduces the president's request by $19 billion, compared with the $35 billion cut now recommended by the House.
In a separate address to the group meeting at the Capitol Hilton, Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) described 1986 as at the crossroads for national security policy.
"It is the year we have broken new ground on aid for democratic resistance forces in Angola . . . the year we have witnessed the emergence of . . . aid for the contras, and finally the year we put SALT II behind us," said Dole, a potential presidential candidate in 1988.
"From now on, we make our nuclear arms decisions on the basis of the needs of our national security, period," he added.
Dole accused the House of "tearing apart" the aid package for the freedom fighters while the Senate kept the president's program alive in March and April.
Dole praised Reagan's decision to no longer abide by the SALT II treaty. "We have to block any attempts to undo, through legislation, what the president decided on SALT . . . . We have to fund as much of the president's SDI Strategic Defense Initiative request as possible."
Dole also said much remains to be done for the "freedom fighters" in Angola. "We have unfinished business in Angola, where American dollars continue to prop up the Marxist MPLA Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola ," he said.
Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz) also addressed the group, calling for economic sanctions against Angola. He criticized the U.S. oil companies, including Chevron-Gulf Oil, for continuing to do business in Angola.
DeConcini said that U.S. business interests were in "blatant conflict" with America's foreign policy objectives and security interests in Angola. He said that Chevron-Gulf alone had an investment of $600 million in Angola.