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Douglas C. Roach, the longtime staff director for the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, died Jan. 11. He was 70.
Roach was a cornerstone of every defense authorization law since 1991 — whether as a professional staff member on the Tactical Air and Land Forces panel, or its staff director since 2001 — under both Democrats and Republicans.
He led a distinguished career of public service beginning in the Air Force, including 516 combat missions between 1969 and 1972.
Roach died at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington from complications related to cancer, according to House Armed Services panel spokesman Claude Chafin.
Determined, forthright and, at times, obstinate, Roach’s death came after a series of chemotherapy sessions when he developed pneumonia.
“This weekend, America lost a selfless servant and true hero,” said House Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif. “Doug Roach was more than a member of my staff; he was an institution.”
Roach served leaders of both parties, often acknowledging the political challenges that members of each party faced as they worked through important national security legislation.
“Doug Roach was a trusted counselor to members on both sides of the aisle for many years,” Rep. Michael R. Turner, the Ohio Republican who chairs the Tactical Air and Land Forces panel, said in a written statement. “He always gave us his best advice, regardless of party interest or agenda.”
“Doug Roach was a war hero, a dedicated public servant, and a selfless man. He was also my friend,” Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the ranking member on Armed Services, said in a written statement. “He cannot be replaced, and he will be deeply missed.”
Roach was a strong ally and tough opponent in his interactions with the U.S. military, sensitive to the military’s needs and, often, skeptical of its demands.
Doug Bush, a professional staffer on the House panel, noted that Roach’s vast experience informed staff in direct and indirect ways.
In an email, Bush recalled a moment that reflected the kind of leader Roach was. Bush, who oversees land combat systems developed by the Army, joined the committee five years ago, when the Army was attempting to develop its ambitious — and doomed — Future Combat System, a complicated mix of networked combat vehicles and other equipment. The ill-defined and overly complex program was hobbled by an excessive overlapping of development, production and testing.
“My first week on the HASC staff, Doug Roach and I were talking about Army programs, and FCS in particular,” Bush wrote. “I remember him saying, ‘I’ll let you form your own opinion on FCS, but from the start I’ve thought the whole thing was just kind of stupid.’”
The program was ultimately canceled.