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News Briefs II

Clinton Unveils Pentagon Budget

Los Angeles Times

The Clinton administration unveiled Monday a $242.6 billion Pentagon budget for fiscal 1997 that calls for further cuts in defense spending, despite charges by critics that it is mortgaging future preparedness by paring money for modernizing weapons and equipment.

The spending plan for the year beginning Oct. 1 would continue the long-range defense cuts that Clinton had been planning before congressional Republicans increased military spending in fiscal 1996 - delaying any further growth, except to cover inflation, until after the year 2000.

The cut in military procurement programs - to $38.9 billion in fiscal 1997, down from $42.3 billion in fiscal 1996 - came despite assertions by administration officials a year ago that the long decline in spending for military procurement would come to an end this year.

The proposal for $242.6 billion in overall military spending compares to a level of $251.8 billion estimated for the current fiscal year.

Clinton initially had sought $246 billion in defense spending for fiscal 1996, but Congress increased that figure.

Although Defense Secretary William J. Perry argued that the new, lower procurement budget actually would go further now because inflation has abated more, the plan is likely to spark another battle with Republicans, who already have begun making an issue out of it.

Virtually as soon as the new figures were made public, Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, denounced the new budget as inadequate and warned that the military's procurement program was "in perilous decline."

Gingrich Casts His Vote for Dole

The Washington Post

They once were enemies in the battle to shape the Republican Party, but Monday House Speaker Newt Gingrich proved what has been suspected for months: In the race for the Republican presidential nomination, he has been Robert J. Dole's best friend.

A decade ago, Gingrich memorably dismissed Dole as "the tax collector for the welfare state." Monday, he referred to him as "the next president" and issued a statement confirming that he had cast his absentee ballot for Dole in Tuesday's Georgia primary.

Georgia is one of eight states holding primaries Tuesday. Maryland, Colorado and five New England states complete the lineup, and together they represent the biggest delegate harvest so far in this busy campaign season. According to public polls, it could be a big day for Dole.

The Gingrich statement was part of a well-choreographed minuet that played out over the past three days with only one hitch - Dole publicly thanked Gingrich for his vote before the speaker had announced for whom he was voting. But within hours, Gingrich's office put out the following statement:

"I would never reject the gratitude of the next president. Bob Dole is a close personal friend and great leader. Together we passed the balanced budget, tax cuts and welfare reform, which when he is president, will all be signed into law. And, I did vote for him this morning."

"I think Newt knows Dole is not a challenge to him in terms of the ideological direction of the party," one GOP strategist said. "Dole is not an ideological candidate."