March 2, 1996 in Nation/World

Clinton Defense Budget Aims To Keep Soldiers Comfortable Reduced Weapons Spending To Pay For Raises, New Housing

John Diamond Associated Press
 

While putting off increased weapons spending for several years, President Clinton’s $243 billion defense budget includes a 3 percent military pay raise for 1997, according to documents obtained Friday.

Service personnel also would get raises of 3.1 percent in subsequent years under the Pentagon budget plan that Clinton is scheduled to unveil on Monday.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press indicate that Clinton will continue to emphasize combat readiness and the quality of life for soldiers, sailors and airmen even as overall defense spending declines.

The documents show two conflicting figures for defense spending for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1: $243.4 billion and $242.6 billion. That compares with $246 billion that Clinton requested for this year and $253 billion that Congress authorized.

Defense officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the lower figure is more accurate because it excludes some spending not traditionally counted as part of the defense budget.

Under the proposed plan for the fiscal year beginning next Oct. 1, military manpower would decline by a relatively slight 25,000 to a total of 1.46 million. That leaves a cut of an additional 39,000 in future years to reach the planned floor of 1.42 million under the military’s strategic blueprint.

Selected reserve strength would drop by 30,000 to 901,000. Department of Defense civilian employment would drop by 34,000 to 807,000. The documents indicate that long-planned military manpower reductions are all but complete. But the Pentagon plans to cut civilian employment by a further 79,000 after 1997.

In 1997, the budget will support 10 active-duty Army divisions, four Marine Corps divisions, 357 ships, 11 aircraft carriers and one on reserve, and 20 Air Force fighter wings.

Clinton seeks $1.1 billion for ongoing military contingency operations, including $590 million for operations over northern and southern Iraq and $542 million for operations in and around Bosnia.

Among other quality of life initiatives, the budget seeks funding to build, replace or improve 6,400 family housing units and 42 barracks.


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