GOP Warns of Tough Oversight; Skelton Gone

GOP Warns of Tough Oversight; Skelton Gone

UPDATED: McKeon Sets HASC Priorities; Calls For Spending on “Threats of Tomorrow”

In the most surprising vote of the election for defense watchers, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Ike Skelton, was soundly defeated last night. Skelton, who has served in the House for 33 years, had been solidly ahead in most recent polls. Then the people voted and then he lost last night by more than 5 percent to Vicky Hartzler, who attracted Tea party support. Ooops.

One other senior Democratic lawmaker on the HASC lost. Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi, chairman of the seapower committee, lost even though he was one of the most conservative Democrats in the House. Taylor lost to a Republican State Senator, Steven Palazzo, who we can count on to vigorously support shipbuilding given his district. Of course, he won’t have the heft Taylor did as subcommittee chairman. These losses leave the Democrats in almost complete disarray in the HASC. Who will lead the party as ranking member will become a major parlor game for Hill watchers. Rep. Buck McKeon’s selection as HASC chairman is very likely. Before the election there were no murmurs of dissatisfaction with his leadership.


Overall, I don’t foresee a lot of change in how the HASC handles things military with the ascension of the GOP. McKeon issued a statement Wednesday morning outlining his priorities for the HASC. Top of the list was “focused and aggressive” oversight. In terms of money, he offered some spin that may not appeal greatly to some of the Tea Party types focused on slashing the federal deficit.

“Our citizens have spoken, and they want a defense budget that is sufficient to address the challenges of today and the threats of tomorrow,” he said, adding that the administration’s plan for one percent real growth in the base defense budget “is a net reduction for modernization efforts.” On top of Gates’ focus on the wars we are fighting today, McKeon speaks of “investing in the capabilities and force structure needed to protect the United States from tomorrow’s threats.” Then, in what sounds like a nod to the Tea Party, he adds he will do this “while mandating fiscal responsibility, accountability, and transparency” from the Pentagon. That does not sound like the GOP-led HASC will have much time for the administration’s likely budget when it comes out in February.

McKeon also sent a clear signal to Senate Democrats, saying he and his “are committed to passing a National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 that is not weighed down by the current majority’s social agenda items.” Sen. Harry Reid will doubtless take note of this and ask Sen. Carl Levin to strip his bill of all offending language and pass it forthwith (sarcasm note for those who might think I’m serious).

In terms of some of the high-profile programs, the F136 engine still has strong support in the committee, as does the F-35. The Army’s combat and tactical wheeled vehicle programs are unlikely to get much less oversight. And the Senate is still controlled by the Democrats, ensuring more continuity than the Tea Party folks will be happy with. One likely trend: more criticism of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his approach to defense policy. That’s safe, since Gates will probably be gone soon after the GOP actually takes control of the House.

Before the election a senior Republican congressional aide told me they weren’t measuring for the drapes yet. Time to take out the tape measures.

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This means Norm, “The Dick” is out of his chairmenship?? YES

“One likely trend: more criticism of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his approach to defense policy. That’s safe, since Gates will probably be gone soon after the GOP actually takes control of the House.”

Really? Most incoming House Republicans — and their leadership — are saying that reducing govt spending is their first priority. Doesn’t that mean the Republicans might actually support Secy Gates’ efforts to find and cut $100 billion in DOD overhead spending over the next five years (rather than fight that effort, as Rep. Skelton has been gearing up to do)? $100 billion is a lot of money , but the DOD budgets are so big that it’s still less than 10 percent of projected O&M spending ALONE over the next five years. Anyone who has studied how the DoD spends (and wastes) money — as Mr. Gates has obviously done — knows that making that kind of reduction can be done without damaging defense capabilities. If they are smart, the incoming Republicans will support what Secy Gates has sent in motion — and encourage his successor to keep up the good work.

The ranking republican was C.W. Young from Florida. Next in line are Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ) and
Todd Tiahrt (KS). If Mr. Young and Mr. Frelinghuysen are offered other committee chairmanships, Rep Tihart could end up taking Congressman Dick’s place.

Time to bring back the debate on term limits?

> Really? Most incoming House Republicans — and their leadership — are saying that reducing govt spending is their first priority. Doesn’t that mean the Republicans might actually support Secy Gates’ efforts to find and cut $100 billion in DOD overhead spending over the next five years

but they are pro-defense and would rather cut it out of HHS, DoE(ducation), welfare, healthcare, EPA, encouraging felons to vote, suing Arizona, etc, etc

Yes, but if they want to make a real dent in the deficits, they have no choice but to include defense spending in their reviews, because it represents 58 percent of discretionary spending.
(They’re also going to have to look at the programs you’re worried about, and they have to do something about the entitlement programs as well, of course, because ALL discretionary spending — defense and non-defense combined — is only about a third of total annual government spending.)

Oblat, are you perhaps suggesting the Democrats are now going to become the “party of no” ?

Could happen, I suppose, but listening to the President just now, I guess I am guilty of being “naively innocent” enough to think that something good could happen as a result of yesterday’s voting.

And just think. There was a time when Skelton was a republican.

Ike Skelton was a good man, and I’m sad to see him go. Same goes for Taylor, who was a pretty sharp fellow. Actually, both those guys would make good service secretaries if they want a real job. On a side note, Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed piece in the Post today, arguing to stabilize defense spending at 4% of GDP. That might give some indication of mainstream GOP thinking on the defense budget. McKeon’s remark sounds like a repudiation of the QDR and of Gates’s policies. Most of the damage is done already, the main question in my mind is what Congress will do about JFCOM at this point. It was no accident that Nye lost his seat in Virginia Beach.

Skelton’s a good man. I greatly fear Tea Party influence in our national defense…

Hopefully the cuts will come from things that are not mandated by the Constitution. We could do just fine with out the Dept. of Ag., Dept. of Commerce, EPA, and many other things not related to defending this country. Especially during a war. There is more then enough flab to cut from the Federal government. Privatizing the post office would be a good start.
Peace Through Superior Firepower!

They’re gone because of their other votes in congress. They may have be good as far as defense goes. Their troubles started when they started voting with Pelosi.

Republican leadership and spending on Defense? Can you spell –“Duke” Cunningham!!

oh look, another $600 billion ‘stimulus’

here’s an idea: put a third of towards military procurement

Here’s a flash for all you guys… The Tea Party is here to stay, because the Tea Party = We The People. Get used to it, get over it, we’re just getting started with taking out this trash. Gates is gonna go because he is nothing but a “hey boy” for obummer. These turds amount to nothing of consequence, the pink slip list is long, just hide and watch…

Semper Fi!

Sonny

He should have gotten off his ass and done his job!

Wonder what the future holds? Big business, big banks, police force government, and big pentagon spending. How is all going to shake out the next two years? Social Security taxes are collected to pay for Social Security benefits; Medicare taxes are paid to pay for Medicare and Medicaid benefits, gas taxes on gasoline, batteries, etc are supposed to be used to pay for roads and bridges, and then we have corporate taxes and our 1040 income taxes to pay for defense and all other government agencies, etc DHS, Education, etc. Which area needs increases in taxes and which areas need to be cut? Taxes are destroying America yet we spend it all on pentagon double dippers who have no trillion dollar enemies

Naive innocence of the type that was recently corrected by the elections? The Tea Party was formed BECAUSE of high taxes and fiscal irresponsibility. No guarantee that Rebublicans will listen either, but we’ll vote them out the next time if not. Term limits? YES! By mutual votes. Stop your whining.

hey Ike remember crsc we got even

Ike Skelton as SecDef — now that’s the first good idea I’ve seen today. He is indeed a good man and a true friend of the military. He has never lost touch with his continuency and knows who he represents. Too bad he was booted to the curb. He was liked by many Republicans as well as Democrats.

Please, get a life.

Tiahrt means tanker contract goes to Boeing, too. Just like Dicks. So what’s different?

Translation — “Taxpayer” doesn’t think the military is getting squeezed hard enough and wants to squeeze it more. Defense spending over GDP is a rule of thumb, and four percent a heuristic based on historical numbers. It is also a measure of the ability of the economy to sustain defense expenditures in peacetime. A “hard” analysis of threats, capabilities and manpower ? Good luck with that. Lots of talk in the department about “portfolio management” these days…but if you think that defense planning is like playing the stock market, I suggest you go read “The Black Swan”. Some people are like Mr. Pitt in “The Madness of King George” — the only idea they have is a good balance sheet. And a mighty fine idea that is. Too bad that fine idea is being used to cover up the real debate over strategy and policy.

Just remember, the nondiscretionary spending is eating our lunch right now. If you want real change, you’ve got to tackle that. Defense is way too easy to cut.

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