Former Military Man McCain a Big Advocate of Procurement Reform

Posted September 24, 2008 at 2:40pm

National defense is Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s area of expertise on every level.

The Arizona Senator’s personal experience as the son and grandson of admirals and as a prisoner of war for five and a half years in Vietnam is difficult to challenge.

McCain came to Washington in the 1970s as the Navy’s liaison to the Senate, learning the ins and outs of legislating from the perspective of an active-duty member of the Navy.

His experience as a Member of Congress, first in the House and since 1986 in the Senate, has leaned heavily on his military background. Today, McCain is the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He has been vocal on everything from a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq to pay increases for troops.

McCain is known for his early and aggressive support of the surge in Iraq.

In December 2006, when the leaders of the Iraq Study Group defended their conclusions that troops should be phased out of Iraq, McCain protested from the chairman’s seat.

“There’s only one thing worse than an overstressed Army and Marine Corps, and that’s a defeated Army and Marine Corps,” he said.

In January 2007, he pressed further in a Washington Post opinion piece titled “Send More Troops.”

“There are two keys to any increase in U.S. force levels: It must be substantial, and it must be sustained,” he wrote. “During my recent trip, commanders there spoke to me of adding as many as five brigades (brigades consist of 3,500 to 5,000 troops) in Baghdad and one or two in Anbar province.”

His hawkish views form an uncomfortable marriage with his anti-spending views; McCain has called for the Pentagon to do more with less.

In 2007, he introduced a comprehensive bill on acquisition to be added to the Defense authorization. The bill, which never made it past the Armed Services Committee, would have made the procurement process more transparent by requiring a robust Joint Requirements Oversight Council to assess major defense acquisition programs before they can receive additional funding.

Other provisions would name deputies for acquisition in each branch of the military and establish a committee for strategic investment in major defense acquisition programs.

“Acquisition reform of a bureaucracy as large as the Pentagon does not happen overnight,” McCain said on the Senate floor when he introduced the bill.

“That is why we need to act now. Our defense spending has doubled in the last decade, from $350 billion to $650 billion. Every American I talk to as I cross the country understands that we need to spend as much as necessary for national defense. However, how much is enough?”

While McCain has kept his distance from defense contractors, in Russia’s conflict with Georgia the Arizona Senator has made a clear allegiance with the smaller nation. In mid-August, not long after Russia’s invasion, McCain declared, “Today, we are all Georgians.” His top foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, lobbied for the Georgian government until March, and his wife, Cindy McCain, visited refugee centers in Georgia shortly after Russia attacked.