National security adviser Frank C. Carlucci, distancing himself from some of Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger's policies and abandoning Weinberger's confrontational tone, said yesterday that he would recommend canceling weapons programs and building a smaller U.S. military force if confirmed as Weinberger's successor.

Carlucci also told the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing that the case for the so-called "narrow" or "broad" interpretations of the 1972 Antiballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty is "ambiguous" and offered to make decisions about future tests of missile defenses in consultation with Congress.

Committee members praised Carlucci's cooperative tone and promised him swift approval, possibly today.

Carlucci indicated in his testimony that he favors a different solution to the Defense Department's budget crunch than did Weinberger, who often ordered that production rates be slowed and programs stretched to save funds.

"As I look at the budget figures that are being debated, it is becoming very clear to me that we may be talking about . . . a different size military force," Carlucci said.

"It does mean terminating some programs in order to fund others more fully. It does mean delaying some new starts, and it may mean taking money from other areas of the budget and {using it} . . . for the purpose of developing more efficient production rates," he said.

Weinberger, who last week announced plans to resign after almost seven years in the administration's top military post so he can spend more time with his ailing wife, had made the buildup of U.S. forces his prime objective, at a cost of $2 trillion. However, real growth of the defense budget stopped two years ago, and Congress this year is debating whether to make real cuts in defense spending.

According to members of Congress, Weinberger stirred widespread resentment in recent years by insisting that the House and Senate approve the administration's military budget requests while he rejected suggestions for compromise.

"We don't get a strong national defense when the executive branch submits a defense budget and then tells Congress to 'take it or leave it,' " Committee Chairman Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) said. Congress has cut billions of dollars from the administration's defense requests in the last two years.

Carlucci, in an apparent reference to the longstanding dispute, told the committee that "you will never find me unwilling to state where I stand nor unwilling to work toward constructive solutions."

"I would rather have a smaller force that is effective and that has the necessary equipment, the necessary ammunition, the necessary personnel, than have a larger structure that is not effective," Carlucci said.

He did not specify which programs or forces would be cut, but emphasized his opposition to any withdrawal of U.S. troops from Western Europe.

Carlucci's remarks also confirmed widespread expectations that he will be less strident than Weinberger in supporting deployment of the missile defense system being developed under the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) or "Star Wars" research program.

"I think we're a ways away from being able to make a judgment" that SDI is cost-effective enough to justify a deployment decision, Carlucci said.

Unlike Weinberger, who referred to the "broad" reading of the ABM Treaty that permits unconstrained SDI testing as the "legally correct" interpretation, Carlucci also said, "I'm not a lawyer, but as I understand some of the lawyers' arguments, the case for 'narrow versus broad' is ambiguous."

Carlucci said if "a test is necessary that requires moving to the broad interpretation . . . we could work {that} out in some way that would be acceptable" to members of Congress who oppose such testing. Weinberger resisted any compromise with Congress on SDI testing under the "broad" interpretation.

Carlucci also indicated that he will support the pending U.S.-Soviet treaty on intermediate-range nuclear forces during Senate ratification hearings next year, and resist any attempts by congressional conservatives to amend it or attach a requirement that the Soviets cease any arms control violations before the treaty can take effect.

"We have to evaluate new treaties on their own merits," Carlucci said.

He and Nunn that a controversial new test of the Trident II submarine-launched missile with 12 dummy warheads had been delayed until after the confirmation hearing. Carlucci and Nunn said the test was delayed until the committee could convene a hearing on it, probably next week. The Washington Post reported earlier this that the missile test would be delayed until after the confirmation hearings.