WASHINGTON — Defense officials' statements that they cannot quickly assign women to fly combat planes under a bill approved last year drew ire from Rep. Beverly B. Byron, a subcommittee chairwoman from Maryland.
"We're going to hold your feet to the fire on this," Byron, D-6th, warnedthem.
Byron, chairwoman of the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, was a chief author of legislation approved by Congress last yearrepealing a 1948 law against women flying planes in combat. She saidit seemed logical to begin training women to fly combat planes immediately so that a Women-in-Combat Commission that Congress also created last year could quickly evaluate their performance.
Assistant U.S. Defense Secretary Christopher Jehn denied reports that Defense Secretary Dick Cheney has decided not to assign women to combat planes until after President Bush sends the commission's recommendations to Congress in December.
But when Byron suggested with irony in her voice that it could take military services that long to recommend whether women should be assigned to combat planes, Jehn said: "I don't think that is a bad schedule at all."
"I think it is a terrible schedule," Byron replied.
Jehn and generals and an admiral from all four military services told the subcommittee that women cannot be assigned to combat planes quickly because questions must be studied and resolved first.
BYRON ON BUSH SPEECH
WASHINGTON -- Rep. Beverly B. Byron, D-6th, said she is pleased with President Bush's State of the Union speech Tuesday night on family values, "which he backed up with proposals for increased funding for Head Start, tax deductions for interest paid on student loans, and upping the personal exemptions per child."
Byron said the president "laid out many of the proposals (Congress) will be faced with, starting with cuts in defense."
"On the negative side, I was sorry that he didn't have a more definite and innovative proposal for health care," the congresswoman said. "There's no question health-care costs have gone sky high, and Congress will have some kind of package this year, but I don't think it will be in any form the president seems to be proposing.
"Finally, I am concerned about his March 20 date (for congressional approval of his short-term legislative package). I don't think it is a realistic one, but we will work toward that."
Byron also said she thought many Americans were "expecting all the answers to all theproblems in just one speech, and I think that was an unrealistic expectation."
TOWN SHUFFLE ON
MANCHESTER -- The Town Council last week discussed the impending retirement of its longtime clerk-treasurer, the hiring of a town manager and the probable removal of its projects administrator post.
But the effects of those moves were debated in closed session Wednesday night.
Getting together after a brief open session -- which contained routine reports from council committees -- the council began the process of figuring out the costs, logistics and timetables of shuffling its office staff.
Kathryn L. Riley, who has been the town's clerk-treasurer for more than two decades, is expected to step down from the post in July. David M. Warner, a former town councilman who has been the town's part-time projects administrator since last January, has recommended theabolition of his post in favor of a full-time manager's position. Heis not expected to apply for that job after his current post is eliminated.
The council is confronting the office staffing issue as itenters the early rounds of budget preparations.
BOARD AGENDA SET
WESTMINSTER -- The Carroll school staff will recommend a redistricting plan for the new Friendship Valley ElementarySchool to the Board of Education Wednesday.
In other matters, theboard will receive bids for the purchase of about $680,000 in equipment and supplies for renovated and expanded classrooms at Sandymount and Winfield elementary schools. Both projects are expected to be completed in the fall.
The board will meet at 9 a.m. at South CarrollHigh School.
SYKESVILLE -- The Planning Commission is expected to adopt a policy statement regarding the preparation of its Small Town Planning Guidelines at its meeting at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Town House.
Also on the agenda is a discussion of the recent Transportation Conference, preliminary plans for Boulder Hill Estates and Shannon Run, and an update of the Conrey Property and Grubbs zoning appeals case.
The commission alsowill discuss a zoning ordinance text amendment for site plans.
PARENTS ATTEND HEARING
WESTMINSTER -- About 100 parents attended a public hearing Thursday on redistricting plans for the new Friendship Valley Elementary School, slated to open in September.