WASHINGTON: It’s finally official: after three years leading Congress’ largest committee and 22 years in Congress, Rep. Buck McKeon of California has announced he is heading for the door.
McKeon, whose departure has been rumored (and denied or deflected by his spokesmen) for more than a year, has been a reliable supporter of the defense industry writ large. Northrop Grumman, maker of the Global Hawk, will especially miss him. The drone was built in his district and he ensured, quietly, that the Air Force could not retire the Block 3 version of the drone.
Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, the current Vice-Chairman appears to be the lawmaker most likely to take the committee helm. (McKeon has publicly endorsed Thornberry as his successor). Thornberry’s deep knowledge of intelligence issues and his ability to keep his mouth closed has won him many admirers in the intelligence community. Given the committee’s broad purview over a range of intelligence issues, he may reinvigorate the HASC’s oversight of such issues. Also, the V-22 is built in Thornberry’s district so Bell and Boeing are probably planning celebratory dinners (although the plane is now in pretty solid shape).
However, Reps. Randy Forbes and Mike Turner — both powerful, energetic and thoughtful members of the HASC — have long been mentioned as possible chairmen. And the decision lies with the House GOP leadership. I’ve sent emails to several close watchers of Congress for more insight and will update this as they reply.