Congressman Buck McKeon and fellow House Armed Services Committee members continued their tour of military bases on Thursday, this time stopping at Fort Irwin and Air Force Plant 42 in the Mojave Desert.
“Today we got to see troops training (at Fort Irwin) that are getting ready to go to Afghanistan,” said McKeon, the committee chair.
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At Plant 42, McKeon, ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and other committee members met with military personnel as well as aerospace technology representatives from Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin.
The base, which employs approximately 9,000 workers, many of whom are military veterans, is home to several classified projects.
“They’re building some good stuff, but we can’t tell you about it,” McKeon said.
The group recently visited the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and has several other military compounds on its itinerary.
“I wanted to do this trip before the election not knowing even who the ranking member was going to be,” said McKeon. “The purpose of this trip is to get a lot of our new members to see what they’re doing. It’s their first month in Congress and they're brand new to the Armed Services Committee. It gives them a real feel for what’s going on.”
The group, which includes Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) and Congressional freshman Scott Rigell (R-Va.), will visit the Mountain Warfare Training Center in the Sierra Mountains on Friday.
From there, it's off to Smith’s district in Washington to tour the Naval Submarine Base at Bangor and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, an Army post and Air Force base near the Puget Sound.
“The great thing about the Armed Services Committee is about 90 percent about what we do is bipartisan,” said Smith. “Fort Irwin was just outstanding – to see the training and the preparation they’re doing for our forces before they go in. The technology is helping us better prepare for the fight. The expertise that we have and our U.S. companies have is invaluable to our national security. Just the expertise (at Plant 42) made me feel better about the future of our national security.”
The House Armed Services Committee is comprised of 62 members. Although the new Republican leadership decreased membership in several committees, the Armed Services Committee remained the same size, McKeon said.
“People wanted to be on it, and it’s such an important mission that we’re working on.”
In short time, the committee will begin with the budget process for preparing its defense bill, which they will present to Congress in May.
Recently, McKeon has questioned President Barack Obama’s plan to cut $78 billion from defense spending.
“We have 87 republican freshmen, most of whom came to Congress with the idea that they have to cut. My feeling is you have to be very careful in cutting defense,” he said. “We cut back after World War II; we cut back after Korea; we cut back after Viet Nam, so our modus operandi seems to be ‘don’t be prepared for the next one,’ and this is the first time I’ve seen the cuts that are being talked about when we’re fighting two wars.”