McCain threatens to stall OSD nominations

Senator John McCain picks another fight with the Pentagon to get movement on MEADS and a Pacific force posture assessment.

Senator John McCain was his feisty self  Thursday at the start of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s nomination hearing for a host of OSD nominees to include Frank Kendall, DoD’s acting top weapons buyer. The ranking member threatened to hold up the nominations for all six nominees if Defense Secretary Leon Panetta didn’t comply with a litany of Congressional requests.

McCain laid each out in a letter to Panetta dated March 29. He highlighted the controversial MEADS program, a Pacific force posture assessment and even funding for the E-8C Joint STARS. Here’s a copy of the letter (compliments of Politico) for everyone to read themselves if they wish on this Friday, but here’s a bulleted review of McCain’s list of discontent.

– Enough with MEADS already. Congress wants the missile program terminated once and for all. The Pentagon would rather see it out even though the Army has decided it doesn’t want it. Rather than pay the hefty cancellation penalties, the Pentagon wants to get something for their money and not welch on Italy and Germany, the two countries with whom the U.S. partnered.

– Expedite the independent assessment of U.S. force posture in the Pacific. McCain wants to know if the plan has changed in regards to shipping Marines from Okinawa to Guam. The assessment was due March 29, but it wasn’t contracted out until six days before.

– Failure by the Air Force to fund the re-enging program of the E-8C Joint Stars aircraft. McCain caught wind that the Air Force plans to transfer the $27 million set aside for the program to other programs. He’s not happy.

– A Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation is due every four years. The Pentagon’s most recent deadline was April 2011. Pentagon leaders missed it.

– The Obama administration has turned its back on commitments it made to modernize the nuclear weapons complex before the Senate ratified the New START treaty. The 2013 budget request doesn’t measure up with those promises.

– McCain is not pleased with the President Policy Directive that Obama issued on Feb. 28 that nullified portions of the laws passed regarding the military detention of suspected terrorists.

– Lastly, McCain wants a report, not just a briefing, about how the Pentagon plans to “normalize defense cooperation with Georgia.” The senator from Arizona is tired of Power Point briefings.

James Miller,  the nominee for Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, stepped to the fore saying he would express McCain’s discontent to his future boss. Miller, of course, took quite an earful the previous week from McCain as he sat next to Gen. John Allen during the Afghanistan hearings on the Hill.