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Gore, Hatch Spar Over Armed Forces

September 8, 1999

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) _ Vice President Al Gore offered veterans an ``iron-clad″ pledge today that he would fight to keep the military strong, as Sen. Orrin Hatch said the armed forces have been ``seriously eroded″ during the Clinton-Gore administration.

Both presidential candidates addressed 3,000 veterans and their families at the 81st annual American Legion National Convention, and both assured their listeners that a strong military was a top priority.

``Nothing we do for our veterans after the battle will matter if we don’t back them up while they’re in the trenches and on the front lines, fighting for us,″ Gore said.

Gore served as an Army reporter in Vietnam and is a member of the American Legion. He wore his legion hat as he addressed the convention.

``You have this iron-clad commitment from me: as long as I am in a position to do something about it, America will be the strongest force for peace and freedom in the entire world,″ he said.

Gore said he planned to ``do right by our troops″ by upgrading and replacing aging equipment, barracks and family housing, and said he supported a military pay increase approved by Congress.

And he said the administration is ``fighting for the first long-term, sustained increase in defense spending in a decade.″

Hatch, who was an ROTC student briefly but is not a veteran, said the nation’s military had been ``seriously eroded″ under Clinton, and he called it one of ``the most insidious threats to our nation.″

According to the Utah Republican, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, three-fourths of military aircraft are 20 or more years old, and soldiers and sailors are leaving in droves.

``Bad leadership affects morale,″ Hatch said. ``As a result of this administration’s policies, we could have aging equipment being put into battle by troops whose military operational training is badly distorted by morale-damaging and limited-value missions.″

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