Tags: Aiming | Higher | the | Military | Bush | Gore | Promise

Aiming Higher in the Military Bush, Gore Promise More Money

Friday, 03 November 2000 12:00 AM

"Ten years ago in the Navy, they [ships serving in the Persian Gulf] hardly ever pulled into port," Zinni told the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is investigating the terrorist attack that killed 17 sailors aboard the Norfolk-based Cole. "You refueled at sea. Now we almost refuel continuously in port."

Is this another example of how military readiness has declined? Republican Texas Gov. George W. Bush says U.S. armed forces have lost their fighting edge during the Clinton-Gore administration. Democratic Vice President Al Gore insists that the American military still is the best in the world.

But both candidates are in a bidding war to see who can put more money into defense spending.

Bush talks about the "death spiral" of the defense budget that pours "more and more money into older and older equipment, draining funds from modernization." He promised to boost spending by $45 billion over 10 years, including $20 billion over four years for research and development of weapon systems.

And Bush criticizes the Clinton-Gore administration for increasing the number of overseas deployments while not providing enough money for readiness.

"Even the highest morale is eventually undermined by back-to-back deployment, poor pay, shortages of spare parts and equipment, and rapidly declining readiness," Bush said.

Gore insists that the administration reversed a decline in military spending begun under Bush's father.

The vice president promised to outspend Bush more than 2-to-1 by adding $100 billion to defense spending during the next decade, although defense analysts say $20 billion of that is earmarked for the State Department and other agencies.

"We are the strongest military," Gore said in the second presidential debate. "But we need to continue improving readiness and making sure that our military personnel are adequately paid and that the combination of their pay and their benefits and their retirement as veterans is comparable to the stiff competition that's coming in this strong economy from the private sector."

Most of Gore's spending would go toward salary increases, benefits, reforming military housing and health care as well as investing in readiness and modernization.

"If this were a spending contest, I'd come in second," Bush said in the third debate. "I readily admit I'm not going to grow the size of the federal government like he is."

Both candidates have promised to raise military salaries to compete with the private sector and to boost morale. Bush promised to "add $1 billion on top of what Congress has approved." Gore said he would "support further pay increases that build on the 4.8 percent and the 3.7 percent increases I supported over the past two years."

But defense analysts say neither candidate has come to grips with the essential question on defense spending: In the post-Cold War era, what is the underlying strategy?

"There is confusion among the ranks as to what the purpose of the military is," said Lawrence Korb, defense policy analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The military is preparing to fight two major regional conflicts simultaneously, he said, but instead it is being sent to a lot of smaller engagements that require different types of weapons, equipment and training.

"We would like to see a little more clarity and definition and a little more rigor in the way both candidates define U.S. national security," said John Williams, spokesman for the National Defense Industry Association. "There's a lot of criticism that we have a Cold War-style fighting force 10 years too late. That's a symptom of the fact that no one has come along and said this is what we need to do in a more methodical way."

So far, Bush and Gore have limited their debate to the question of when military force should be used. Bush insists the Clinton-Gore administration has been too carefree in sending U.S. troops on missions.

"I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called nation-building," Bush said in the second debate. "I think our troops ought to be used to fight and win war. I think our troops ought to be used to help overthrow a dictator when it's in our best interests."

Bush's senior national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, told the New York Times that the United States should turn over all of the peacekeeping work in the Balkans to European nations.

"The governor is talking about a new division of labor," she said. "The United States is the only power that can handle a showdown in the [Persian] Gulf, mount the kind of force that is needed to protect Saudi Arabia and deter a crisis in the Taiwan Straits. And extended peacekeeping distracts from our readiness for these kinds of global missions."

Gore responded that such a change "could jeopardize fragile alliances. It would be a damaging blow to NATO."

But of the major engagements in the past 20 years, the only one Bush said he would not have supported was in Haiti, and he said he would have gotten U.S. troops out of Somalia earlier when the mission changed from humanitarian aid to nation-building.

"Both candidates realize we have to be engaged," said Michael O'Hanlon, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution. "On intervention, they agree more than they disagree. Gore may be more likely to stop a genocide in Africa, but it's not as if Gore will be itching to stop civil wars around the world."

But the candidates differ on the deployment of an anti-ballistic missile defense system.

Bush wants to go full speed ahead with development and deployment of a system that would protect all 50 states and American allies, even if it means abandoning the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the Russians.

The United States should offer Russia amendments to the treaty, but "if Russia refuses those changes, the United States should give prompt notice, under the treaty, that we will withdraw from it," the Bush campaign says.

Gore is more cautious about both the feasibility of an anti- ballistic missile system and the responsibility of undermining the ABM Treaty. He supports continued research but no deployment unless the system has proved to be technically feasible, cost-effective, needed for defense and compatible with international arms control agreements.

"You don't want to discard the ABM Treaty and trigger the chance of a renewed arms competition," Gore said on NBC's "Meet the Press" in July. But in a news release his campaign issued in August, he said, "I would be prepared to work hard to persuade the government of the Russian Federation to modify the [ABM] Treaty. But at the end of the day, I would not be prepared to let Russian opposition to this system stand in the way of its deployment."








(C) 2000 Richmond Times-Dispatch via Bell&Howell Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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Ten years ago in the Navy, they [ships serving in the Persian Gulf] hardly ever pulled into port, Zinni told the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is investigating the terrorist attack that killed 17 sailors aboard the Norfolk-based Cole. You refueled at sea. Now we...
Friday, 03 November 2000 12:00 AM
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