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New Chair of Armed Service Committee Reveals Agenda

After the last midterm election the newest chairman of the House Armed Services Committee will probably be Republican Howard McKeon of California. The Committee determines the budget for the Pentagon. Recently, Secretary Robert Gates and security officials stressed the importance of reducing wasteful spending in the US military budget. While McKeon promotes greater oversight of military spending and reducing wasteful spending, he does not want to reduce the military’s budget. In fact, McKeon opposes only small military budget increases and stresses the importance of increasing military spending. McKeon contends a decrease in military spending would damage the US as a whole and he also points out the importance of realizing that China is increasing its military capability. A unique observation, McKeon wants to ensure that, after the Pentagon cuts wasteful spending, the excess funding will stay in with the military and reinvesting in useful programs.

The rhetoric of Representative-elect McKeon reveals the harsh realities and contradictions posed to policy makers. On the one hand, common political rhetoric is that the government spends too much money but also no one wants to cut high price government

activities such as national defense. Even saving on inefficiencies has become politicized because of concern on where the extra money will go. McKeon and other law makers realize that the federal government cannot sustainably spend as it has in the past but they can also not come to terms in a decrease in US capabilities and influence. For example, McKeon is unwilling to allow the US to pull back on its global activities out of concern that someone else, particularly China, will fill the void. While McKeon may have campaigned on decreasing government spending, his rhetoric does not elude to any actual net decrease in spending.

Also, McKeon said he will push for new policies concerning detainees. McKeon said he wants to stop the “Mirandizing” of detainees and prevent Guantanamo detainees from getting trials in Article III courts. However, most of McKeon’s rhetoric appears to be political and he has not yet addressed the legal implication of treatment of terrorist detainees. When he gets into office presumably January, this will probably be one of the first issues he will address.

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