Magazine article National Defense

Elections Alter Membership of Key Committees

Magazine article National Defense

Elections Alter Membership of Key Committees

Article excerpt

Next month's elections will not only result in a new president, but key races across the country also will change the makeup of the armed services committees in both houses of Congress.

In addition to the presidency and countless state and local offices, all of the seats in the House of Representatives and one-third of the seats in the Senate are up for grabs. For the defense community, two of these congressional races are significant.

One of the most contested Senate races is for the Virginia seat currently held by Democrat Chuck Robb. He is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he is minority leader of the readiness subcommittee. Robb served in Vietnam and is a 34-year veteran of the Marine Corps Reserves. He is also the son-in-law of the late President Lyndon Johnson. But he now is engaged in a fight for his political life against former Gov. George Allen, a Republican. Allen is the son of a late coach of the Washington Redskins football team.

Since Virginia has a high percentage of military families and houses numerous military outposts, both candidates are working hard to win the votes of the defense community.

Allen, in a recent speech before the American Legion, pledged to be a consistent and strong voice for the U.S. armed services, which he claimed are underfunded. "Our military has been cut to near the bone and stretched to near its limit," he said. "Our men and women in uniform are underpaid. Our military itself is undermanned."

Allen attacked Robb for his record of supporting President Clinton's downsizing of the armed forces, noting that Robb opposed the 2000 Defense Appropriations Conference Report, which included a 4.8 percent military pay increase. Allen has called for higher procurement spending levels. He is a strong advocate of a national missile defense system.

Robb also has called for increases in the defense budget. He has supported legislative "firewalls" to protect defense spending from being used for non-defense programs. Robb also supports fresh approaches to defense spending, calling for "a major restructuring of the military, to include a new 'cyclical' approach to readiness ..." This, he said, "could free up billions of defense dollars for force modernization, while retaining the capability to fight."

Since Allen declared his candidacy, the Virginia Senate race has been considered by many to be a toss-up. This is because in 1994, Robb won only 46 percent of the vote, barely beating the controversial Republican candidate Oliver North.

North, a former Reagan Administration National Security Council official, made headlines in 1985 when he became a central figure in the Iran-Contra affair. …

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