Navy Secretary Confirmed by Senate

In an unorthodox move, the Senate has confirmed the appointment of Donald C. Winter as secretary of the Navy, but he will not formally take over until the current secretary's stalled promotion is cleared in an expected recess appointment by President Bush.

Two senators have blocked Navy Secretary Gordon England's confirmation as deputy defense secretary, the Pentagon's second-highest position, creating a logjam in the department's hierarchy. But senators indicated Thursday that Bush will bypass the Senate and install England as deputy secretary within the next four months. He has been serving as acting deputy secretary.

The recess appointment would clear the way for Winter, the former corporate vice president of Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, to be formally sworn in as the Navy's top civilian official. Winter will not be sworn in until England moves up, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Brian Maka said yesterday.

Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), who has urged Bush to make recess appointments to fill wartime vacancies at the Pentagon, assured the Senate that this is a temporary situation and does not set a precedent for other shuffles.

"To me, the advice and consent process is a very precise obligation of the Senate," Warner said during debate on the Senate floor. "This type of action is taken in this case, because it is my understanding that the president will make a recess appointment within 120 days."

Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) both have holds on England's confirmation, which has been contested primarily over shipbuilding concerns and potential conflict-of-interest issues surrounding pensions he holds from defense companies.

England must continue in his Navy post to be eligible for the deputy position.

Testing for Mad Cow to Continue

The government plans to maintain indefinitely its faster level of testing for mad cow disease, rather than scaling back testing in December as originally envisioned.

With the lucrative Japanese market poised to reopen to U.S. cattle, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said he wants government scientists to continue testing about 1,000 cattle a day.

"I have just been very reluctant to even set a date as to when we would bring that to a close," Johanns said yesterday. "It's safe to say the enhanced surveillance is going to extend beyond the end of December."

Johanns said his decision is not about Japan, which bought more U.S. beef than any other foreign customer until the United States discovered its first case of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Johanns said he wants to make sure testing represents all regions of the country and that healthy animals are tested.

Still, critics said even higher testing levels are needed to reassure Japan and other trading partners.

"I've said time and time again, there is little risk of BSE in U.S. beef, but it is obvious that we have not yet convinced key trading partners of that," Sen. Tom Harkin (Iowa), senior Democrat on the Agriculture Committee, said yesterday.

Harkin and other lawmakers have been pressuring the Agriculture Department to do at least 20,000 more tests on healthy cows before testing is scaled back.

-- From News Services