- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 19, 2004

Sen. John Kerry’s campaign defends his proposals to eliminate major U.S. weapons systems during his career as a senator by claiming Vice President Dick Cheney proposed similar cuts as secretary of Defense during the first Bush administration. The spin-doctors in the Kerry campaign responsible for these claims obviously know nothing of history. These claims are baseless for the following reasons:

(1) Mr. Kerry proposed eliminating 65 major U.S. weapons systems in 1984, including the ships, planes and missiles we currently have in our inventory that are the backbone of both our nuclear and conventional deterrent. If these proposals had been adopted, we would not now have a deterrent sufficient to defend America. It would be obsolete and ineffective.

(2) Mr. Kerry proposed these foolish cuts at the height of the Cold War, at a time when the United States faced its most serious peril in its history in the heavily armed and aggressive Soviet empire.

(3) Mr. Kerry asserts he learned important lessons from his service in Vietnam that provide him the basis for leadership in defense and foreign policy. However, when he proposed these cuts, most members of his own party ran in the opposite direction.

(4) In 1991, then-Secretary of Defense Cheney proposed cuts in our defense inventory at the end of the Cold War. He proposed reductions in the U.S. military in the context of the most sweeping arms-control agreements dealing with both conventional and nuclear weapons, including the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty and START I, the treaty eliminating nearly 6,000 nuclear weapons.

(5) Mr. Cheney also proposed replacing some of the reduced weapons with more modern weapons, such as the C-17 and the F-22, while also proposing to cut weapons that were over budget and not meeting technical expectations.

(6) On the other hand, Mr. Kerry proposed cuts that would have decimated our defenses, with no plan proposed as an alternate means of deterrence and defense (probably because no such alternative existed except surrender).

(7) Even after the end of the Cold War and the relatively dramatic reductions in U.S. forces achieved through arms control and a new defense plan, and even after Bill Clinton further reduced U.S. defense forces by an additional 40 percent, Mr. Kerry proposed even more cuts.

(8) Even with the end of the Cold War, the last defense budget of the earlier Bush administration proposed a steady-state defense force structure capable of meeting future threats, while also maintaining the flexibility and durability to meet current and future threats. While Mr. Clinton campaigned on a platform of cutting only $60 billion from defense over five years, he implemented cuts in 1993-94 that were far in excess of these numbers, coming close to some hundreds of billions in cuts.

(9) Some have described the Clinton years as a procurement holiday, meaning the Clintonistas simply decided not to buy the weaponry necessary even to maintain the force they proposed after the excessive cuts were made. A senior Clinton Defense official admitted to me in late 2000 that the defense procurement accounts were deliberately underfunded by 40 percent, to cause shortfalls to eventually force further reductions in the U.S. defense forces.

(10) But this was not enough for Mr. Kerry. In 1993, he proposed additional massive defense cuts of some additional $54 billion in the short term, and hundreds of billions over the long term. Even this was too much for his Democratic colleagues, who responded by noting his proposals were dangerous, and if implemented, they would undermine our nation’s security.

(11) Undeterred, Mr. Kerry went even further and proposed major reductions in our intelligence budgets, which would have further reduced our nation’s ability to see future threats. These proposals were so off the wall they were defeated in the Senate by overwhelming votes, with some 80 percent of the Senate opposing his proposals as dangerous to our nation’s security.

Mr. Kerry has urged us to look at his record. However, whenever that record is examined, the results never look good for the senator. His campaign whines that such an examination is an attack on the senator’s patriotism, when in fact it is simply an examination of his judgment. Nowhere is that more evident than with respect to the new missile threats from rogue states. Having opposed most missile defense programs, including the Patriot systems now defending our troops overseas, Mr. Kerry now loudly proclaims his support for “research” for such systems, again conveniently leaving out the important facts that North Korea and Iran are testing new missiles of greater and greater range now, missiles that could soon threaten our cities, at which point the senator’s support for research will be beside the point.

The president is deploying such missile defenses now to meet this new threat, just as Ronald Reagan deployed conventional and nuclear weapons in 1984 to meet the Soviet threat. Mr. Kerry’s judgment, even according to his Democratic colleagues, was seriously deficient in 1984 and 1994. It remains so in 2004.

Peter Huessy is president of GeoStrategic Analysis.

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