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House panel slashes 10,000 Navy jobs Seen as retaliation for Tailhook abuse scandal.


WASHINGTON -- Annoyed by the Navy's handling of the Tailhook affair, the House Appropriations Committee has voted to slash 10,000 military jobs from Navy headquarters here and around the world.

The move, led by Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a hard-nosed ex-Marine who chairs the defense appropriations subcommittee, was expected to be approved by the House when it votes on the $253 billion defense budget Thursday.

The Navy said yesterday it didn't immediately know the total number of people who work at its headquarters.

The cut may not survive in the Senate, however, and Mr. Murtha acknowledged that it was designed primarily to urge disciplinary action against the officers involved and to halt what he termed a "cover-up" by high-ranking Navy brass.

Yesterday's committee action, taken by voice vote without dissent, followed the resignation Friday of Navy Secretary H. Lawrence Garrett III.

Mr. Garrett, who attended the convention but said he witnessed no improper behavior, blamed himself for a "leadership failure" that was responsible for the behavior at the convention and the subsequent slow-moving investigation.

Twenty-six women -- half of them Navy officers -- have said they were fondled and disrobed while being pushed down a gantlet of drunken aviators in a Las Vegas hotel hallway.

The convention is an annual event for Navy aviators.

No charges have been filed in the alleged assaults, and only one aviator "received counseling" for his participation.

Initial inquiries implicated only two men, although 1,500 people were interviewed about the womens' charges. The investigation is now in the hands of the Defense Department's inspector general, and as many as 70 officers could face disciplinary proceedings, the Navy has said.

If the Navy takes action in the Tailhook case, he added, the reduction in headquarters staff jobs may be reconsidered in a Senate-House conference on military appropriations later this year.

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