Generals Seek Upgrade to Private First Class

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WASHINGTON: On the theory that you can't run a decent air war when your top brass is flying coach, congressional Republicans have buried a rather luxurious request in their kill-Clinton-with-kindness $13 billion Kosovo funding bill: top-of-the-line Gulfstream V jets for the military's nine top generals. The Air Force asked for the planes, until now mostly used by Hollywood moguls and free-spending CEOs, because the responsibilities of the commanders in chief, it said, had gone global -- and the Gulfstream, which can fly 7,500 miles nonstop, had the most bang for the buck.

It's a lot of buck -- $476 million over 10 years to lease -- and the Gulfstream V seats only eight, which may be a problem for the aide-heavy military men. And though the current fleet that does the job, a raft of 30-year-old Boeing 707's, could be even more expensive to maintain, something about the idea is redolent of the $500 toilet seat -- which may be why there was no dollar amount attached to the request. Republicans would prefer that the extra money in their bill (Clinton asked for only $6 billion) be associated with pay raises for grunts and budgets for two-front wars, not treating Gen. Wesley Clark like Mike Ovitz. On the other hand, think what a little high style in the high command could do for recruiting.