Security at Energy Labs Rated

Two U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories have been found to have "marginal" safety measures to protect sensitive material, according to an independent review released by the Energy Department.

Weapons research facilities have been the focus of security concerns after a congressional report accused China of stealing U.S. secrets for seven nuclear warheads and the neutron bomb over 20 years of espionage. China has denied the allegations.

The annual review by the Energy Department's Office of Independent Oversight rated Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories as having "marginal" security safeguards. Last year, both facilities were also rated as having marginal security.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory, which was linked to the Chinese spying scandal, was ranked as having "satisfactory" security, the review said. That marked an improvement from its marginal rating last year.

The independent investigators rated the laboratories satisfactory, marginal or unsatisfactory after reviewing computer security, material control and accountability. Within the last 15 years, no national nuclear laboratory has been rated unsatisfactory overall by the department's independent investigators. If a facility ever did get that rating, it would be immediately shut down, an Energy official said.

The Senate is scheduled to vote Wednesday on reorganization of the Energy Department--including its oversight of the nuclear labs.

Colombia Seeking More Aid

Eager to reverse a deteriorating situation in Colombia, the Clinton administration is preparing to invest perhaps billions of dollars in that nation's struggle against drug traffickers, rebel groups and a sagging economy.

At the United Nations yesterday, Colombian President Andres Pastrana unveiled a broad strategy that requires a drastic increase in U.S. military and economic aid, ranging from helicopters to trade preferences.

Pastrana, who meets with President Clinton today, is seeking $3.5 billion in U.S. and other foreign financing over three years to help pay for a $7.5 billion campaign. The administration has declined to discuss how much it will contribute, but officials who asked not to be quoted said U.S. envoys have worked closely with Pastrana to develop the strategy.

About $500 million of the request is earmarked to overhaul Colombia's armed forces, officials there said. About 50 U.S. trainers are working with a 950-man army counter-drug battalion to be deployed in December. Additional aid is to be aimed at "social development" projects, including judicial reform, and at shoring up the economy with credits and trade benefits.

GOP Pressure for F-22 Funding

Under orders from Republican leaders, House-Senate bargainers are moving toward providing at least some of the $1.8 billion the Air Force wants for its first, futuristic F-22 stealth fighters, congressional aides said.

The House cut the money, enough to build the first six F-22s, from a Pentagon spending bill in July despite support for the program by the Senate and the Clinton administration.

But Friday, GOP leaders told lawmakers crafting a final version of the defense bill to restore the money, said aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

According to aides, House bargainers offered over the weekend to provide enough money for two of the aircraft, which the Air Force envisions as the chief guarantor of U.S. air supremacy in coming years.