Dicks Best Bet to Follow Murtha as C-HAC-D

EDITOR'S NOTE: Our boy Colin Clark at DoD Buzz gets the gouge...

Rep. Norm Dicks, Boeing supporter extraordinaire, is the “closest thing to a sure thing you get in Washington” to ascend to chairmanship of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, says defense sage and consultant Loren Thompson.

I asked Thompson, who was desperately seeking salt to battle the next winter storm, if Dicks’ ascension would mean that Boeing would have undue influence on the decisions of the House spending body. “They say that becoming chairman has an effect on the way one behaves I guess we are going to see if that’s true,” Thompson said. He pointed out that Dicks comes “from a very different regional political cultural and a very different generation,” obviously referring to Murtha’s time as a Marine in Vietnam and the pretty conservative rural district from which he came in Pennsylvania.

Also, Dicks has defense contractors — Boeing preeminent among them, but not alone — in his district so if he delivers a robust defense budget the companies in his district will almost certainly benefit. Murtha headed the defense spending subcommittee but did not have major defense contractors in his district. That, Thompson said, may have contributed to Murtha’s focus on delivering defense earmarks.

The biggest programmatic winner from Dicks’ donning of the defense cardinal’s mantle will be Boeing’s tanker. Murtha pushed for a dual buy from Northrop Grumman and from Boeing. He wanted to push the buy to 26 from the planned 15 planes. Dicks has absolutely no incentive to push for a dual buy. And Northrop Grumman’s executives have pretty much concluded that they cannot win under the terms of the draft RFP.

[We'll see if Dicks can rise above his parochial interests as chairman and do what's best for the entire committee and the nation at large. How he handles the tanker question will surely be a good barometer.]

-- Christian

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