The Senate leadership may act soon to free hundreds of military and civilian promotions that are being held up as part of the battle over a controversial government form that requires civil servants to pledge not to make public material that someday might be classified.
Most of the promotions involve Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps officers. But the list includes promotions of political appointees at Justice and Interior as well as the formal approval of C. William Verity Jr. to be secretary of commerce.
The promotions have been blocked from consideration by the objections of several senators, including Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who are concerned about a government security clearance form that workers must sign to get, or keep, their security ratings. Most of them are civilians with the Defense Department.
The form pledges U.S. workers not to disclose or write about any classified material, or any information that might be "classifiable" in the future. Although the form has been around since 1983, it wasn't until this year, when many civil servants objected to its language, that it became a major issue. Private contractors who are required to have security clearances are allowed to sign a form that does not contain the prohibition about material that might be classified in the future.
The government has agreed not to revoke the security clearances of workers who refuse to sign the form pending the outcome of a court suit filed by the National Federation of Federal Employees. That suit is pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It alleges that the form amounts to a gag order because the language about "classifiable" material is vague. "A government scientist could retire, write an article about some kind of government research project that is now unclassified," a spokesman said yesterday, "and then get into trouble later on . . . . "
An aide to Grassley said the senator and other members of Congress have been contacted by government workers who are worried about the implications of the form but who risk losing their security clearances (and in some cases their jobs) if they refuse to sign.
He said that Grassley has no objections to the military promotion list but that he and others had put it on hold in hopes of getting the Defense Department and the White House to reconsider the language of the form.
Meantime, congressional sources say that the Senate's Democratic leadership -- which is under pressure from officers whose promotions are being held up -- is considering asking the Senate to approve them by unanimous consent. Such an action would require opponents to spell out their reasons for holding up the promotions and would put the heat on them.St. Elizabeths Hospital
Tomorrow, 1,800 hospital employes move from the federal government to the D.C. government. A spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union said none of the employes will be affected by the District's residency requirement rule. But new employes will be required to live in the city.
Workers transferred tomorrow will remain under the federal health insurance and retirement program. But those hired after tomorrow will be covered by a pension plan being developed by the city for new employes. Those involved in the transfer will get the 1.5 percent raise already approved for D.C. workers.