After being publicly shoved hard by Sen. John McCain for having accepted $100,000 from the now-defunct lobby shop PMA, incoming Army Secretary John McHugh promised Thursday that no matter whether he was confirmed or not he would never "never receive another earmark."
PMA, of course, was the lobby shop linked to Rep. Jack Murtha which went bust after being raided by the FBI. McCain, having made his point about the corrupting power of contributions for earmarks, then told McHugh that accepting the PMA money would not "disqualify" the former ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee from becoming Army Secretary. Since McCain decided not to hammer McHugh over the issue any more and there's no need to highlight the irony of a departing lawmaker suddenly taking the pledge let's look at some of the policy issues that arose during the nomination hearing.
Chief among them is the Army's modernization efforts, as DoD Buzz readers well know. McHugh, in answers to written questions submitted before the hearing began, set modernization as the Nr. 2 priority for the Army, right behind the enormous stresses experienced by the men and women who serve us in green. He pledged "to demand" fixes to Army modernization should his nomination be approved. How would he pursue the question of balance between heavy and light forces, regular and irregular forces? The service, McHugh said in his written answers, must come up with "innovative solutions to reset and modernize equipment to address current and future conflicts..." That sounds an awful lot like the same sort of language the Army is already tossing around though it appears to hint at even greater emphasis on rebuilding fixing up existing systems and much less on anything new for the Army.
In addition, McHugh said he would "insist on clarity and rigor in the oversight of major programs to ensure that the acquisition process supports the needs of the force."
McHugh has the reputation of being an honorable man, one who was willing to work closely with Democrats when that left many of his GOP colleagues fairly uncomfortable. The Army needs a strong hand at at its helm as it faces the enormous strains of fighting two wars, staying ready to respond across the globe and doing the training and education needed to advance the force. Let's hope McHugh brings that "clarity and rigor" he spoke of to his job every day.