Nunn said the Pentagon's proposed $306 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 was riddled with "blanks" that prevent Congress from making wise decisions. He cited the proposal to continue buying enough F-16 fighters to equip an Air Force far larger than Pentagon officials now believe will exist in five years.
"If the Department of Defense wants to remain relevant in this process," Nunn told his colleagues, "they must begin filling in these big blanks in the defense budget."
Instead of rebuilding the budget from the ground up based on the changed world, Nunn said, Pentagon officials have simply scaled back budgets created when a menacing Soviet empire and Warsaw Pact dictated military spending levels. 'They have not adjusted the underlying assumptions about threat and strategy," he said.
Nunn offered no suggestions for items that should be canceled, nor did he suggest how big next year's military budget should be.
But he warned that a proposal by Sen. Jim Sasser (D., Tenn.), chairman of the Budget Committee, to cut $17 billion from the 1991 budget would "require very disruptive changes."
Without naming Sasser, Nunn said such a reduction would force deep cuts in personnel and maintenance accounts. "If we are not careful and sensitive in dealing with our men and women in the military services," Nunn said, "we will damage our ability to respond to future threats."
A smarter approach - one endorsed last week by Rep. Les Aspin (D., Wis.), Nunn's House counterpart - would seek deep cuts in weapons accounts, which generate smaller savings initially but substantial savings over time, Nunn said.