WASHINGTON

Defense officials call for Pentagon to cut spending

Top Defense Department officials said Tuesday that Pentagon overspending must be curtailed in order to maintain the current size and strength of the armed forces.

Explaining the reasons for Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ ambitious program to cut costs, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “headquarters and support bureaucracies, military and civilian alike . . . have swelled to cumbersome proportions.”

Lynn said that task forces are at work to find $100 billion in cuts over the next five years by “targeting unnecessary excess and duplication in the defense enterprise.”

Expanding on statements by Gates, Lynn said contractors had grown to 39 percent of the Pentagon work force from 26 percent since 2001 because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the availability of supplemental funding.

TANNERSVILLE, Pa.

Minister’s wives’ deaths may have been staged accidents

A retired Methodist minister was ordered Tuesday to stand trial on charges he killed his wife and staged a car accident to cover it up, a case that has investigators re-examining his first wife’s death as well.

Arthur Burton “A.B.” Schirmer, 62, of Reeders, Pa., should face trial on charges of homicide and evidence tampering, a Tannersville judge ruled.

Authorities had initially concluded that Betty Schirmer, 56, died in July 2008 as a result of a car crash, but police reopened the case several months later after the suicide of a man whose wife was allegedly having an affair with A.B. Schirmer.

Police found Betty Schirmer’s blood in the garage of the church parsonage. Investigators also are looking again at the 1999 death of Schirmer’s first wife, Jewel, who was reported to have died in a fall down a flight of stairs.