Congressional reaction to Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ plans to re-jigger the Fiscal 2010 defense budget – and then some – ran from the coolly polite (House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton) to the wildly hostile (Sen. Jim Inhofe -- see Paul McLeary’s post from Monday).
One exception has been Sen. John McCain, the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. When the Republicans controlled the Senate and he chaired Armed Services’ air/land subcommittee, McCain seemed to delight in puncturing Pentagon officials’ aircraft acquisition plans – especially if they included leasing instead of buying, or buying before flying.
Photo: Courtesy of Sen. McCain's office
So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that McCain is one of the few lawmakers on a defense committee to endorse Gates’ plan. “I strongly support Secretary Gates’ decision to restructure a number a number of major defense programs,” the Arizona Republican said in a statement issued shortly after Gates announced his decisions at a Pentagon press conference.
“It has long been necessary to shift spending away from weapons systems plagued by scheduling and cost overruns to ones that strike the correct balance between the needs of our deployed forces and the requirements for meeting the emerging threats of tomorrow,” McCain added.
Contrast that to Skelton’s "line in the sand" comment about where the decision-making power ultimately rests: “The buck stops with Congress, which has the critical Constitutional responsibility to decide whether to support these proposals.”
Photo: courtesy of Rep. Skelton's office
Skelton went on to say he and his colleagues looked forward to working with Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen in the weeks ahead “as we prepare the Fiscal Year 2010 defense authorization act.”
As the first President Bush used to say: “Stay tuned.”