Statement by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on the House of Representatives Version of the Defense Authorization Bill

August 14, 1986

The House is fashioning a defense authorization bill that threatens to reduce our national security and undercut the delicate and sensitive arms control negotiations now underway. It could jeopardize the President's efforts to seek a real solution to arms control. The House bill authorizes an amount for defense that is significantly below the Senate's amount and $34 billion below the amount the President originally requested. The bill contains some particularly unhelpful features. It would, first, not allow us to produce the new chemical weapons that are safer and, at the same time, would prevent us from removing the older, less reliable chemical weapons from Europe. We get the worst of both worlds in this type of legislation, which is clearly catch-22 legislation.

We're concerned that a number of other provisions in the bill are designed to affect U.S. foreign policy rather than to enable our defense forces to underwrite national security. This bill is an improper vehicle to legislate foreign policy. The bill's purpose should be to add to our security. The bill would continue a ban on effective testing of our antisatellite weapons system, thus denying the American people an assured defense capability that the Soviets already have. It would ban nuclear testing for a year, a ban that we have repeatedly rejected, that would leave our military forces with weapons whose safety and reliability could not be ascertained. Further, the bill attempts to force us to comply with the SALT II agreement -- which the Soviets violate -- and the bill cuts deeply into our research and development funds for SDI.

The House action has the effect of tying the President's hands when we should be strengthening his hand for negotiations with the Soviet Union. It affects the prospects for real reductions in nuclear weapons and ignores the fact that the Soviet Union only began to talk seriously when the United States clearly indicated its determination to remain strong. It gives the Soviets many things they want without the necessity of negotiation. I am confident that the President's advisers would unanimously recommend the President veto the bill if it comes to him in the form that the House legislation is taking.

Note: Larry M. Speakes read the statement to reporters at 12:20 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.