February 23, 1988
I is with regret that I accept your resignation as Secretary of the Navy, effective February 22, 1988.
During the past four years, you have served our country with honor and courage, just as you have throughout your distinguished career. As my first Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, you played a major role in revitalizing the reserve components of our Armed Forces. You were instrumental in restoring confidence and pride in one of our most noble national traditions -- the concept of the American citizen-soldier.
Since taking the helm a year ago as Secretary of the Navy, you continued to press forward the highest standards of excellence throughout the Navy and Marine Corps. From the most remote outposts to the lecture halls of Annapolis, your commitment to the quality of our military capability and the well-being of our men and women in uniform has been undivided.
As your service to this Administration comes to a close, I want to thank you for the selflessness and loyalty that you have always personified. In the end, it is these qualities that will ensure that freedom endures in this generation and in every generation to come.
Godspeed in all your endeavors.
February 22, 1988
Dear Mr. President:
Over the past three months the Department of Defense has been struggling to implement a mandated 33 billion dollar reduction of the FY 89 budget approved by you last year. The Navy Department was directed to absorb a significant share of this reduction, which eventually became approximately 12 billion dollars.
Like many others, I have serious concerns regarding the entire budget reduction process. First, the Department of Defense has been required to absorb cuts at a ratio almost twice as great as non-defense programs. Second, many Defense reductions themselves have been made in the wrong areas, and without clear strategic thought. I am particularly upset with the nature of the cuts as they affect the Department under my authority.
On three separate occasions, the uniformed and civilian leadership of the Navy Department provided the Secretary of Defense with proposed cuts totaling the amount required to meet the budget reduction, but which also would preserve the cherished goal of your administration to rebuild our Navy to a minimum level of 600 ships. In each case the advice of this senior leadership, concurred in by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was ignored. I can only conclude that the decision to reduce the level of our fleet to a point that it may never reach the 600 ship goal was motivated by other than military and strategic reasoning.
During the four years I have served in your Administration, I have repeatedly expressed my gratitude at your decision to rebuild the greatest Navy in the world. Since I became Secretary of the Navy last year, I have stated just as frequently my belief that the force levels of our sea services remain minimal and must not be reduced. Even in the current budget environment such force levels could have been maintained. Since recommendations to that effect were rejected by your Secretary of Defense, I am unable to support him personally, or to defend this amended budget during budget deliberations. Consequently, I find it necessary to resign from my position as Secretary of the Navy.
Thank you for the opportunity to have served our country during four of our nation's most critical and productive years.
James H. Webb, Jr.