Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Tex.) delivered a scathing critique yesterday of the administration's last two Navy secretaries, calling James H. Webb Jr. and John F. Lehman Jr. "shortsighted, close-minded and parochial."

Webb and Lehman "prided themselves on a Lone Ranger attitude which I consider irresponsible," Bentsen, the Senate Finance Committee chairman, said in a floor speech endorsing White House aide William L. Ball III as Webb's successor.

"Secretary Lehman was a loose cannon, undisciplined and unwilling to listen to those who disagreed with him. Defense Secretary Cap Weinberger, unfortunately, chose to let Mr. Lehman march to his own drummer . . . .

"Only a few weeks ago, Mr. Webb alarmed our European allies suggesting withdrawal of some U.S. forces from Europe in order to concentrate more on naval power," Bentsen said. "Statements such as that undermined U.S. foreign policy just at a time when the United States had been boosted by our successful conclusion of the INF {Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces} Treaty with the Soviet Union."

Webb's abrupt resignation Monday may lead Congress to reexamine the Defense Department budget, especially outlays for the Navy, members of Congress said.

"I think what his resignation will do will cause us to look at our commitments," Sen. William S. Cohen (R-Maine) said yesterday on "CBS This Morning." Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said Webb's resignation "has obviously launched an important new stage of the debate about Pentagon priorities and the size and type of Navy we need."

In his abrupt resignation letter, Webb angrily said he quit because Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci made budget decisions that mean the target of a 600-ship Navy will never be met.

Webb said in an interview on the "McNeil-Lehrer NewsHour" last night that he believes Carlucci's insistence that he cut 16 ships from the Navy's budget was politically motivated.

"There was no logic for cutting them . . . , " Webb said, adding, "The reason was a political reason -- to go to Congress with each department having to take a significant hit in force structure."

Bentsen, in his remarks, praised Carlucci for accepting "the new economic realism." The defense secretary, Bentsen said, "has to trim the rapid growth planned by the Pentagon to fit within our national consensus on deficit reductions . . . . Secretary Carlucci is off to an excellent start."

Noting Webb's objections to the budget cuts, Bentsen said that "it seems to me that it is better to give our sailors decent pay rather than heedlessly pursuing the arbitrary goal of a 600-ship Navy."

The senator said that "the Navy has been the favored service of this administration," adding, "One budgetary silver medal does not cripple the Navy. They should not expect a gold one each time.

"The loss of one round in the never-ending debate over resource allocation should not prompt the team captain to grab the ball and go home," Bentsen said.

Webb could not be reached last night for a response to Bentsen's remarks.

In 1981, President Reagan promised to build the Navy to a total of 600 deployable ships from the 450 the service had at that time.

Navy officials had said they would meet the target by next fall, but Carlucci ordered the service to mothball 16 aging frigates, leaving it with 580 ships.