By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Sen. Jim Inhofe will become the ranking member — the highest-ranking Republican — on the Senate Armed Services Committee during the next congressional session.
The Armed Services Committee helps establish policy and spending priorities for the Department of Defense. It also holds hearings for those nominated by the president to top civilian and uniformed positions at Defense Department.
Inhofe made the announcement during a luncheon meeting Tuesday at Enid Woodring Regional Airport. Inhofe is a longtime member of the committee.
He is giving up his spot as ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which deals with national infrastructure, such as roads and bridges.
Inhofe said Sen. John McCain will rotate off the Armed Services Committee when the new session begins Jan. 2, making him the ranking member. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., is chairman of the committee.
The ranking member is the senior member of the opposing party.
Inhofe said he is confident Republicans will win control of the Senate in 2014 and he will become chairman of the armed Services Committee.
During Levin’s term as chairman, he and the ranking member have acted as “co-chairmen” of the committee, Inhofe said, and he expects that to continue. Inhofe makes a trip to Afghanistan every New Year’s Eve and believes Levin will go with him this year.
One of the main focuses Inhofe has a member of the Armed Services Committee is sequestration, the automatic $1.2 trillion in budget cuts facing all federal government agencies unless a budget deal is reached.
Inhofe said President Barack Obama already has taken $1.2 trillion out of the military budget and wants to take more.
“Vance Air Force Base will be less affected by the cuts than other bases in the state because of their mission,” Inhofe said.
He said Obama also has spent $6.8 billion on global warming initiatives, with that money probably coming from the defense budget.
Inhofe said community support is valuable to military bases, and the type of support Oklahoma bases have received is one reason the state has not lost a base during base closure rounds. Oklahoma bases have consistently increased their mission after each round, he said.
Since 1987, there have been five Base Realignment and Closure rounds, and Oklahoma’s bases have increased their missions.
A Republican proposal to be introduced in the new Senate will do away with any more base closure rounds at least through the next two fiscal years, Inhofe said.
He said he is concerned President Obama will cut the military so deeply that if BRAC rounds remain, there will not be enough infrastructure remaining and it will destroy the military.
“Obama wants $485 billion more than he has already put in place, and he is getting it by canceling equipment,” Inhofe said.
During his talk, Inhofe also outlined projects he has assisted with, including a project to extend the runway at Woodring.
The estimated $5.8 million project will extend the main runway from 6,200 feet to about 8,500 feet and is about 65 percent funded, he said.
The extended runway would help Vance continue local operations while its outside runway is being replaced in 2014. T-6 and T-1 aircraft from Vance already use Woodring.
Fifty-five percent of aircraft operations at Woodring are military for regular operations, he said, and Vance planes often must be diverted to land there because of strong crosswinds or threatening storms at the base.
In the 212 and 2013 military construction budgets, the military is requesting $11.8 million for new a squadron facility at Vance and funding for runway/taxiway overhaul.