January 22, 1999

January 22, 1999 | News Releases on Federal Budget

Proposed Defense Hike Falls Short, Analyst Says

WASHINGTON, JAN. 22, 1999-President Clinton proposed long overdue increases in defense spending during his State of the Union address, but not enough to reverse the alarming decline in military readiness or to enable the Pentagon to buy all the new weapons it needs to meet 21st century military threats, says a new paper by The Heritage Foundation.

The president has asked Congress for an estimated $110 billion in added spending over the next six years, including a $12 billion increase for fiscal year 2000. The Joint Chiefs of Staff requested a significantly higher amount when they testified before Congress in September-$150 billion over six years and $17.5 billion for fiscal year 2000.

"At best, the proposed spending hike will temporarily slow, but not stop, the slide toward reduced combat capabilities," writes James H. Anderson, a defense policy analyst at Heritage.

The modest amount proposed by President Clinton includes a military pay hike, but that will do little to stanch the tide of individuals leaving the armed services because they lack confidence in their senior military and civilian leaders, Anderson says.

In addition, a sizable portion of the president's proposed increase relies on speculative savings from congressionally authorized base closings. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Henry Shelton estimates that $15 billion over five years will flow from additional base closings, but this figure seems "wildly optimistic," Anderson says.

To ensure that American troops are adequately equipped to meet U.S. security obligations, Anderson recommends that Congress boost the amount for fiscal year 2000 from $12 billion to $20 billion. "To be effective, increased spending must support a national security strategy that defends vital national interests," he writes.

Anderson lists several military programs that should be targeted for additional funding, including national and theater missile-defense programs, ground forces, naval power, state-of-the-art military equipment and strategic mobility systems.

The Clinton administration can also improve military readiness by abandoning its commitment to the now-defunct Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which bans an effective national missile-defense system, and by undertaking fewer peacekeeping assignments, such as the open-ended mission in Bosnia, Anderson writes.

The projected budget surpluses should make it easier to fund the necessary increases, Anderson notes, but Congress and the president need to consider raising the government-wide spending caps imposed by the 1997 Balanced Budget Act to avoid making cuts in domestic programs.

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