President Clinton is expected to propose in his nearly completed 2001 budget an increase in housing allowances for members of the military who live off base. The extra money is part of a package of financial incentives to keep troops from leaving the service and to attract more recruits.

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen was scheduled to announce the proposed increase in housing allowances during a visit today to Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Pentagon officials who disclosed the planned increase yesterday would not reveal details.

Cohen has said in several recent appearances with U.S. troops abroad that housing allowances should go up. During a stop in Naples Dec. 21, Cohen told sailors and Marines that he was determined to improve housing and health care for troops during his final year as Pentagon chief in the Clinton administration.

"We are going to do our level best to make sure you and your family have the best we can provide," Cohen said.

This year's budget gave military members a 4.8 percent across-the-board pay raise, the largest since 1981. Congress also made a one-time adjustment to the Pentagon's pay scales, so that about 75 percent of all service members will receive extra pay raises of as much as 5.5 percent on July 1.

Increasing allowances for those who live off base is one of several aspects of Cohen's plan for improving housing. The others call for using military construction funds to repair or replace some of the 200,000 military housing units judged to be substandard, and using private contractors to build more on-base housing.

Late last year, the Army signed a 50-year, $3 billion contract with Carson Family Housing of Charlotte to privatize family housing at Fort Carson, Colo.

BLINDING LIGHT: The Pentagon needs to investigate more fully how an adversary could disrupt U.S. military operations with low-power attacks on U.S. satellites, the commander of U.S. Space Command said yesterday.

"We should understand our vulnerabilities," Air Force Gen. Richard Myers told reporters.

One means of doing that, Myers said, is by using U.S. lasers in test firings on orbiting U.S. satellites. The Pentagon conducted such a "laser dazzler" test against one of its satellites in October 1997 using an Army laser.

The laser beam did not destroy or damage the satellite's infrared camera, which was the target. The intent is to temporarily "blind" the camera with a burst of light.

Critics called the experiment a mistake by giving other nations the impression that the United States is moving toward offensive use of lasers in space--a step the Pentagon is not ready to make.

Myers said more tests would help the Pentagon gauge the vulnerability of its satellites.

The U.S. military increasingly is dependent on satellites in both peacetime and in war.

Myers, who will leave his post at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado next month to become vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on March 1, said other countries are developing "laser dazzlers" that could interfere with U.S. satellites. He would not identify these countries, but China is known to be developing such a weapon.

WEB SECURITY: A federal judge criticized the Army's efforts to keep its public World Wide Web site secure after a 20-year-old man said it was easy to hack into it.

"The Army didn't do its homework in the first instance," U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller said Tuesday.

The Milwaukee judge commented as Chad D. Davis pleaded guilty to gaining unauthorized access to the site and altering its contents.

Davis said he had hacked into the Army computer using information freely available on the Internet. He replaced the Army's opening Web page with the "signature page" of Global Hell, a nationwide group of hackers.

Stadtmueller said the Army's effort--or lack of it--to keep its Web site secure could affect the amount of restitution Davis is ordered to pay. The judge directed Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Klumb to get more information on the matter by the time Davis is sentenced in March.

Davis exploited a security flaw in a computer program used in building the Web site, according to court documents.

Klumb said the Army had installed a "patch" for the shortcoming before Davis broke in. But there was a period during the summer when the Web site was being moved from one server to another when the patch was not installed on the new server, Klumb said, allowing Davis to break in.

Pentagon spokeswoman Nancy Ray said yesterday that hacking is electronic vandalism, noting: "It's against the law. That's why the person was in court."