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News Briefs I

No Link Found in String of Recent F-14 Tomcat Crashes, Navy Says

Los Angeles Times

The commander of the Navy's Pacific Air Fleet said Monday that investigators have been unable to find a common link among a string of recent crashes and he defended the controversial F-14 Tomcat, which will be the subject of a congressional probe Thursday.

Vice Adm. Brent M. Bennitt said that reviews done during the recent three-day safety stand-down for all 330 of the Navy's F-14s worldwide proved to the Navy's satisfaction that the F-14 is safe.

"Part of the reason we're having this review in the F-14 community is to ensure we have a safe airplane and we're comfortable we do," Bennitt said. Three of the supersonic fighters from Miramar Naval Air Station have crashed in recent weeks.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., will convene a hearing Thursday to examine the F-14's safety record. Thirty-two of the supersonic fighters have crashed since 1991.

Hunter and Rep. Randall "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., have complained bitterly that cutbacks in defense spending during the Clinton administration have kept the Navy from upgrading the older models of F-14s and thus have endangered the lives of fliers.

Christopher Opens Up Latin Trade

The Washington Post

Seeking to highlight Cuba's isolation in the Western Hemisphere, Secretary of State Warren Christopher kicked off a victory tour of Latin American success stories Monday by offering to increase access to U.S. markets for friendly Central American and Caribbean nations.

Christopher's trip was planned long before Cuba's downing on Saturday of two U.S. civilian light aircraft, but Christopher seized on the occasion to reinforce the argument that democratic reforms and cooperation with Washington are more fruitful than the alternatives practiced by Cuba.

Christopher promised Salvadoran President Armando Calderon Sol - and the leaders of Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Belize, whom he met over lunch - that President Clinton will include in his proposed budget bill a provision to give their countries and most Caribbean states access to U.S. markets equal to that of Mexico and Canada for some of their most important products.

U.S. Assesses Impact of Job Cuts

The Washington Post

Government data indicated that managers, supervisors and executives made up 12.1 percent of the nonpostal workforce in 1989, and that had risen to 12.7 percent by mid-1993. Buyouts aimed at middle-management employees have trimmed the number. By last September there were only 11.6 percent classified as bosses.

But a report by the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee says good management may require a higher ratio of supervisors to employees than the 1-to-15 goal of the White House. When the administration began working on Uncle Sam's midriff, it said there was one supervisor for every every 15 employees. The House Committee says that in industry the average is one supervisor for every six workers. Its report says that setting an "arbitary" government-wide goal may deny agencies the flexibility they need in tough or complex programs.

Employees have mixed emotions. Excess supervison can be stifling. But those hoping to advance to higher grades, pay, and responsibility can't help but notice that their promotion chances aren't getting any better.