The 114th Congress is settling in and getting down to business, but with the retirement of Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia lost a powerful voice in an area particularly significant to Middle Georgia.
Chambliss was a ranking member on the Senate Committee on Armed Services as well as the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. While freshman Sen. David Perdue landed a position on the latter, he did not get assigned to the former.
Certainly he will have plenty to keep him busy. He’s also on the Foreign Relations, Judiciary, Budget, and Aging committees, but with the state’s senior senator, Johnny Isakson, chairing the Veterans Affairs and Ethics committees, Chambliss’ strong voice on the Committee on Armed Services will be missed. Being a ranking member or committee chairman really means something in Washington, D.C. It means you are in a position to decide what happens -- and probably more importantly, what doesn’t happen.
It is instructive to examine who will lead the committee that will ultimately decide when another round of base realignment and closure will take place. The chairman is Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. McCain’s home state has three, for sake of this discussion, Air Force bases. Ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions has two Air Force bases. Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., has Shaw Air Force Base and Joint Base Charleston. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has Hill Air Force Base and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., has Tinker Air Force Base to protect. Those are not all the members of the committee, but you see a pattern here.
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Even without an immediate BRAC, Stars and Stripes reports that the “Pentagon will request about $51 billion in war funding for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, a 20 percent reduction from the $64 billion Congress approved this year.” And guess what? Sequestration returns in 2016 if Congress doesn’t rescind it. And the announcement last week that the military will consolidate some overseas installations makes it more likely for a BRAC to occur. All of this will have a direct impact on Robins Air Force Base. While not having a voice in those discussions around the table at the Committee on Armed Services hurts, it could have been worse. A scenario could have put a Democratic freshman in a Republican-led Senate. And it’s not all bad news. On the House side, none of the state’s Republican members joined the palace coup of 25 who voted against the incumbent speaker, Rep. John Boehner.
It is what it is, and that means we have to redouble our efforts with all of our representatives in Washington to make sure Robins is on their radar screens in a positive way.