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MILITARY MAY NOT GET FUNDS FOR NEW WEAPONS

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The Defense Department's civilian leadership has warned the military it may not get the money it wants for buying major new weapons, such as fighter planes or submarines, the Pentagon chief said Monday.

Defense Secretary William Perry, visiting the region to review U.S. ability to handle the surge in Cuban refugees, said the military services had requested more money than the fiscal 1996 budget allowed.Perry said the civilian leadership had gone back to the services "and we've given them some guidance on where to cut." Perry said they chose weapons systems because they did not want the services to "take the easy alternative and cut their operations and maintenance budget."

"This doesn't mean that they'll be cut. It's just to say that these are not sacred cows," Perry said of the weapons.

John Deutch, the Defense Department's No. 2 officer, has warned the military in a memorandum it may not get the money it wants for buying major new weapons, such as fighter planes or submarines.

The memo tells the services to prepare different ways of funding all new major weapons systems, ranging from the F-22 to the Navy's new attack submarine, in the years 1996-2001.

The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post reported Monday that decisions on cuts or delays in the weapons systems could come as early as next month.

Deutch, the Pentagon's acquisition chief, has reportedly targeted:

- The Air Force F-22 fighter by Boeing, the largest planned U.S. procurement for a single weapons system.

- The Army's Commanche, or RAH-66, helicopter, jointly in development by Boeing and the Sikorsky unit of United Technologies Corp.

- The Navy and Marines' V-22 Osprey, a versatile two-engine craft that can fly like a plane and land like a helicopter, in development by Boeing and the Bell helicopters unit of Textron Inc.

The cost of helping Cuban and Rwandan refugees, plus the fight against drug traffickers, has forced the Pentagon to find savings by delaying high-priced weapons, The Post said.

"You're going to hear a lot of screaming" by Air Force brass over delaying the F-22s, The Post quoted an unidentified Air Force official as saying.

"This'll be a blow to the Navy . . . and it's scary," a Navy official told the paper.

Defense contractors were less dramatic in their assessment.

"Obviously we're concerned, but we're not alarmed," said a spokesman for Lockheed, based in Calabasas, Calif.

In Seattle, a Boeing spokesman told The Journal the company is aware of the memo and they "don't know what it means" but are studying it.

Also cited in the memo were the Navy's Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and new attack submarines.

General Dynamics Corp., whose electric boat shipyard in Groton, Conn., makes submarines, told The Post a one-year delay would be bearable but a longer one could mean trouble.

The shipyards most vulnerable to any Pentagon cutbacks are the Bath Iron Works in Maine and Litton Industries Inc.'s shipyards in Mississippi, the Post said.