Cohen Urges More Latitude for Field Commanders

To avoid the political strains that marked NATO's air war against Yugoslavia, the alliance needs to plan future operations more thoroughly and give commanders more latitude in carrying out attacks, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen told Congress yesterday.

Reporting on a Pentagon study of the war, Cohen and Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered a largely positive picture of the 78-day NATO bombing campaign. But they acknowledged some weaknesses, particularly a slow and cumbersome political process for deciding what targets to strike.

Senate Panel to Initiate Three Probes Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), working through the Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on administrative oversight and courts, will head fresh probes of the Justice Department's handling of campaign finance abuses, alleged Chinese espionage and the confrontation with Branch Davidians near Waco, Tex., the committee agreed yesterday.

Today in Waco, lawyers will inspect evidence the government produced recently in response to a court order. Michael A. Caddell, who represents Branch Davidian relatives in a wrongful death suit, said he intends to call attention to the FBI's discovery of documents describing rules about the use of deadly force, and statements describing the existence of videotape from closed-circuit cameras. "The existence of this video recording system has never been revealed to Congress or anyone else," Caddell said.

Jobs for the Blind Temporarily Saved

The government's decision to keep eight supply facilities open may save 1,400 blind workers' jobs. But advocates for the blind are not cheering.

"It's a good move in the right direction," said Jim Gibbons, president of the National Industries for the Blind, the parent organization for 88 groups that provide services to the blind. But "there is still uncertainty."

The facilities, which got a temporary reprieve, distribute products made by the blind to federal agencies. They were to begin closing this month.

For the Record

* The Senate gave a $268 billion defense spending bill final approval, 87 to 11. The measure cleared the House on Wednesday, and President Clinton is expected to sign it. It would provide the military's biggest pay raise in nearly two decades, slow the Air Force's F-22 "stealth" fighter program and seek to halt a Pentagon decline in readiness.

* The House voted 415 to 5 to create a separate agency within the Transportation Department dedicated to reducing truck accidents that kill more than 5,000 people a year on the nation's highways.