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Generals wary of Pentagon move to cut their ranks

WASHINGTON — Two weeks ago, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced a sweeping effort to improve efficiency that, among other things, takes aim at the military’s sacrosanct corps of generals and admirals. He ordered his staff to cut at least 50 positions and made clear that he would be happier if they cut more.

Pentagon officials said the measures were aimed at more than a number. Gates said he wanted to flatten a bureaucracy that had experienced significant “brass creep,” swelling to “cumbersome and top-heavy proportions.”

Beyond that, Pentagon officials said, Gates wanted to push back against a culture of entitlement that had allowed some senior officers to pad their lifestyles as well as their commands.

According to the Pentagon, there are now 963 generals and admirals leading the armed forces, about 100 more than on Sept. 11, 2001. Meanwhile, the overall number of active duty personnel has declined to some 1.5 million from 2.2 million in 1985, even though the Army and Marine Corps have grown since the Sept. 11 attacks, to carry out the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The salary cap for generals is about $180,000, up from $130,000 a decade ago, according to Todd Harrison at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a private research group in Washington. Like all officers and enlisted personnel, generals have the benefit of the military pension system, which gives everybody who serves 40 years a pension equal to their full pay.

Lawyers for 9/11 workers are ordered to justify some fees

NEW YORK — The lawyers representing most of the ground zero workers who sued the city over health issues will be appearing in court in a new role: defending themselves.

The federal judge overseeing the cases has summoned the law partnership of two firms, Worby Groner Edelman and Napoli Bern Ripka, to a hearing Friday to justify $6.1 million in legal expenses that they are charging their clients.

Next week, the lawyers are due back in federal court to respond to accusations of overcharging made by the other leading law firm representing workers. That firm, Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo, alleges that its co-counsel is trying to inflate its fees by inappropriately charging clients more than $400,000 for publicists, lobbyists and legal and medical experts as case-related costs.

The Napoli firm, which represents about 9,400 of the more than 10,000 plaintiffs, already faced criticism from clients for a settlement that many plaintiffs said did not give them enough money and compensated less for some illnesses like cancer.

American Airlines flight makes rare satellite-based approach

Portable global positioning system devices that let travelers know precisely where they are and, more important, direct them to where they want to go, have been around for years. But airline pilots in the United States often must still rely on antiquated ground-based radio and radar equipment to land at airports.

So when American Airlines Flight 1916 followed a satellite-based approach to Bradley International Airport near Hartford, Conn., on Thursday afternoon, it was a momentous occasion, at least according to the pilot.

“This is really good stuff,” Capt. Brian Will told a small group gathered at the terminal to celebrate the flight, which originated in Dallas.