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News Briefs, part 1

U.S. Seeks to Station Floating Arsenal Off Thailand

Los Angeles Times
BANGKOK, Thailand

The Clinton administration Thursday urged Thailand to allow the United States to store massive amounts of military equipment on ships off its coastline. Secretary of State Warren Christopher said this request is part of a "strategic decision" to position U.S. materiel around the world.

The request underscores the Pentagon's increasing concern about its ability to project U.S. military force to remote locations at a time when foreign governments are reluctant to have U.S. bases or troops on their soil. It also appears to reflect American concern about China's growing military power in Southeast Asia.

"This is part of a U.S. strategic decision - that in this period, we can protect the security of our allies, not just in the Middle East but all over the world, by pre-positioning equipment in strategic locations," the secretary of state told a news conference. "This equipment will be valuable if there is a threat to security."

Thailand had turned down the American request a few weeks ago. Nevertheless, in meetings with top Thai officials, Christopher - accompanied by Lt. Gen. Daniel W. Christman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - said he hopes Thailand will approve pre-positioned U.S. military equipment off its shores some time "in the future."

Democratic Staffers on Job Search

The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

Laurie Cody, who has spent the last three years working on the Democratic staff of a House committee, expects to lose her job when the Republicans officially take control of Capitol Hill on Jan. 4. But she's determined to stick it out in Washington.

"I'm not ready to go back home yet" to Florida, she said. "To me, that's admitting defeat in the big city, and I'm not going to do that."

Like a number of other Democratic aides, Cody's first choice is to find a job opening in the executive branch and apply for it through a 1940 law that allows Hill staff members suddenly out of a job to bypass the traditional civil-service hiring process and ease into the government's career ranks.

On the Hill, that's called "Ramspecking," shorthand for the Ramspeck Act. The law has been used by Democratic and Republican staff members through the years, usually when their employer - a senator or House member - lost an election or died. But this week Congress has been awash in rumors and speculation that the White House will try to exploit the law to pack the civil service with Democrats.

Republicans, noting that the Clinton administration supported legislation to cut the federal work force by 272,900 jobs, say they will call for an investigation if they think the White House is using the Ramspeck Act as a cover to create executive-branch jobs for Democrats. "We don't want to circumvent the spirit of the (downsizing) law and have a bunch of people going to work up there when we've decided to reduce the (federal) work force," said Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind.