Letter to the editor

The current spin about a "top-down review" of the Defense Department vs. promised increased funding is very misleading.

After the results of then-Defense Secretary Les Aspin's 1993 "Bottom-Up Review," the Republican Congress called for a Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) to be conducted after each presidential election, starting in 1997. Therefore, a second QDR would be under way this year, no matter who was president.

Also, new presidents commonly go forward with the Pentagon's existing defense budget, which has just taken 10 to 12 months to develop. Then they ask Congress for selected changes during budget deliberations and/or submit supplemental budget requests for changing fiscal year needs. It's impossible to do it otherwise!

The military chiefs always have unfunded needs and wants, which they make known to key congressional leaders, and recent Republican congresses have added $10 billion to $20 billion a year for their constituent interests, budgeted or not. Congress also has refused to consider further cost-saving base realignments and closings the last four years, and it could easily have funded pressing unmet needs by revising the deficit-reduction budget agreement or by declaring them "emergency" requirements.

To their collective credit, former President Bush saw the need to reduce defense spending after the Cold War ended, and President Clinton saw the need to gradually increase defense spending. Then-Gen. Colin Powell and congressional leaders oversaw both trends.

It is disingenuous for senior Republican officials and military leaders to criticize the current defense environment when they have had so much opportunity to shape it. The media should point out these realities and not buy into the spin and hype of the defense hand-wringers.

Theodore H. Smith Falls Church, Va.

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