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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clinton Plans $25 Billion for Defense

WASHINGTON -- President Bill Clinton, seeking to blunt a Republican attack over the politically explosive issue of U.S. military readiness, has proposed spending an extra $25 billion over the next six years to bolster military preparedness and modernize weapons.


The proposal is Clinton's first major policy initiative since the Republican victory in the Nov. 8 elections. It would finance more training and equipment maintenance, grant new cost-of-living pay increases, upgrade military housing and expand child-care services.


The president also announced he will ask Congress next January for an extra $2.3 billion for the current year's defense budget to help reimburse the military for peacekeeping and rescue operations, which it says has siphoned off monies needed to maintain readiness.


Although administration officials contend that the increases had been in the works for months, the timing of the announcement, which Clinton made at a Rose Garden ceremony Thursday flanked by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, clearly was intended as a preemptive strike against the GOP.


Restoring many of the defense cuts that Clinton had made earlier was Item No. 6 in the 10-point "Contract With America" that Republicans used to help seize control of the House in last month's elections. The GOP had been planning a push for more defense spending in 1995.


Only two weeks ago the Pentagon disclosed that five key army divisions had suffered significant declines in readiness as a result of the cash-flow problems, despite earlier assertions by top officials that preparedness levels were high.


White House and Pentagon officials declined to say how the president would find the money needed to pay for the increase -- by cutting domestic programs, proposing new tax hikes or allowing the federal budget deficit to grow.


Reaction from Republicans was muted. South Carolina Republican Representative Floyd Spence, expected to be chairman of the House Armed Services Committee next year, said he was heartened by the announcement, but he said defense spending still fell short of what was needed.


There was some dispute over how far the initiative would go to close the gap between the long-term goals of the Clinton's defense program -- to enable the military to fight two major regional wars nearly simultaneously -- and what he has actually budgeted for defense.


John M. Deutch, the deputy secretary of defense, told reporters that with some additional cuts the administration could eliminate the gap, which is now officially estimated at $49 billion between now and the turn of the century. But many outside analysts disagreed.


In addition to restoring operation and maintenance funds, the money is expected to reduce the number of major new weapons programs the Pentagon is likely to have to delay or cut back.