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Millions Wasted in Military Budget Could Go to Children, Groups

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Washington--While the Reagan Administration is cutting millions of dollars from children's immunization programs, it is allocating $1.4 million to provide veterinary services for the pets of military personnel, a nationally known advocate for children charged last week.

Vaccinations Needed

Those dollars, which are included in the Defense Department budget for 1983, could be better used to vaccinate 35,000 low-income children who would not be served next year in the immunization program due to the cuts, according to Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund (cdf).

Ms. Edelman cited several similar examples of "cost-ineffective" spending by the Reagan Administration at a press conference called by the group to present a detailed critique of the proposed federal budget for 1983.

In its first year, the Reagan Administration "unfairly" cut more than $3.8 billion from programs that benefit children, subjecting them to more severe cuts than any other group in American society, Ms. Edelman charged.

"More than one in five federal dollars was [taken] from poor, homeless, abused, and handicapped children and their families," she said.

In its latest proposal, the Administration is asking for still more sacrifice from the "poorest and most vulnerable," including additional cuts of $8.5 billion in grant and entitlement programs, Ms. Edelman said. She cited additional statistics from "A Children's Defense Budget: An Analysis of the President's Budget and Children," a 215-page report prepared by the nonprofit organization to offer a view of the budget from an education and child-welfare perspective.

'Broad Range'

The document includes alternative budget proposals that would restore funding to "a broad range of programs" affecting poor, handicapped, and homeless children.

It targets the Administration's proposed $76-billion increase in defense spending for fiscal 1982 and 1983, which according to Ms. Edelman, was agreed to "without any effort to scrutinize or eliminate rampant military inefficiencies, fraud, abuse, and perks that are unrelated to national security."

Among the "nonessential" de-fense expenses cited in the cdf report are:

The veterinary-services money for the pets of military personnel, which could be used for the child-immunization program. In fiscal 1982, the Administration proposed a $3-million reduction in the immunization program, which the cdf report says would eliminate immunization shots for 75,000 "at risk" children. In fiscal 1983, the immunization program would be cut by $2 million more.

$20 million for nonpriority mes

sages routinely sent over Defense Department "teletype nets"; according to the General Accounting Office, the report states, such messages could be sent by mail.

Increasing Saving

If this communications system were cut back, it suggests, the excess teletype machines could be donated to programs for deaf children, thus further increasing saving. One such program, the preschool incentive grants for handicapped children, lost a total of $24 million during fiscal 1981 and 1982 and would be eliminated entirely, if the Administration's block-grant proposal is approved, the cdf report asserts.

'Give Away' Machinery

$58 million that U.S. Army officials plan to spend on a program "to give away" industrial machinery.

"If it sold the equipment instead on the open market, and returned the proceeds to the Treasury, perhaps the $58 million and more could be put back into the school-lunch programs which about 2,000 schools have eliminated because of budget cuts," the cdf report notes.

The private dining room at the Pentagon for the Secretary of Defense and about 100 other eligible people, which employs 19 people and costs each taxpayer $12.06 per meal served.

Self-Sustaining Basis

If the Secretary of Defense's dining room and four others at the Pentagon were run on a self-sustaining basis, the cdf report claims, the $400,000 saving would provide an additional 3.7 million "mid-morning servings of juice" to low-income children in Head Start and day-care centers.

During the press conference, Ms. Edelman said the President has "preyed on the fears and resent-ment" of those who believe that most welfare recipients cheat and that "social programs for poor children and their families are the cause of federal budget deficits and inflation."

Ms. Edelman added, "What he has not told the American public is that 70 percent of the welfare 'cheats' he is ridding us of are children.'' She said the priorities established by the Administration "will cost billions" in future remediation and services.

"This is the time to invest in [children], rather than turn our backs on [them], as the Reagan Administration is doing," Ms. Edelman said.

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