New Name for SOA

Army school closer to new name Senate also approves changes in oversight

Associated Press
Friday, July 14, 2000

Washington --- A controversial Army school was on the verge of getting a new name and more oversight Thursday when the Senate approved a defense bill laced with Georgia interests.

In the measure, which passed 97-3, senators followed the House's lead and accepted cosmetic changes for the School of the Americas, a Fort Benning, Ga., facility that trains Latin Americans in combat techniques.

Some lawmakers had wanted to close the school for at least 10 months while human rights accusations are investigated. Instead, it will stay open but be renamed the Defense Institute for Hemispheric Security Cooperation.

A board of academics and members of Congress will monitor its conduct, and the Defense Department will take the oversight reins away from the Army. President Clinton is expected to sign the measure.

''I consider what's being done symbolic and cosmetic,'' said Sen. Paul Coverdell (R-Ga.). ''. . . My view is the key here is that the core work of the school will continue."

But Georgia Democrat Max Cleland said the changes would be productive. ''With a new name comes a new focus.''

The defense authorization bill budgets nearly $310 billion, $4.5 billion more than the president requested and $19 billion more than the current year, for weapons procurement, military readiness and personnel.

The Senate version has a work order for six new C-130J cargo plans and 10 new F-22 fighters. Both are made in Marietta, Ga.

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