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CLINTON ACCUSED OF LETTING MILITARY READINESS LAPSE

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A new Republican broadside aimed at the White House says President Clinton has allowed military preparedness to erode far more than the administration has acknowledged.

The incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee under the new Republican majority issued a report Sunday that finds military readiness sagging in all the armed services, not just a few isolated spots.Rep. Floyd Spence, R-S.C., who will take over the Armed Services panel in January, said the report by his staff found problems in military units much more pervasive than the Clinton administration has acknowledged.

"The readiness picture emerging from the field is significantly different than the picture that often gets painted in Washington," Spence said.

Spence called the commitment by Clinton to pour an additional $25 billion into the Pentagon budget over the next six years "a welcome, albeit a very modest first step. However, today's readiness problem will not be resolved in the long-term by the president's $25 billion proposal."

Instead, Spence said, the Clinton administration must address lapses in training and equipment in its military units and "must stop wearing out the force by deploying it all over the world in support of operations of questionable national interest."

The 15-page report by Spence foreshadows battles over both defense spending and the use of military force that are sure to develop as the Republican majority in the House and Senate scrutinizes Clinton's Pentagon planning.

At the same time, the Republicans have not yet committed to any specific strategy on defense. With other proposals such as tax cuts and deficit elimination high on the GOP priority list, the Republican legislative leadership plans to study military issues for at least a year before laying out its own program.