Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain is using his tenure at the helm of his powerful committee to advance his national security and domestic fiscal policy agendas, The New York Times
McCain has worked with members on both sides of the aisle to craft an annual military policy bill
that would scale back ballooning personnel costs and expensive military equipment. It would also strip the Pentagon of its authority for acquiring new weapons and put power directly in the hands of the military branches.
"We are seeing things in this defense act that we have not seen before that bear his personal mark," Nora Bensahel, a military policy analyst at American University's School of International Service, told the Times.
The $600 billion bill is set to be voted on this week and includes initiatives that McCain has wanted on the agenda for over a decade, the Times said.
The legislation seeks to shake up accountability on spending and introduces reforms for federal pension systems which have not been achieved in other areas of the government.
"Senator McCain is truly trying to make the most of these two years," Bensahel said.
Despite the bipartisan approach, the bill has been entangled in budget battles that date back years over how to pay for all of the programs authorized in it, the Times said.
McCain's bill would give the Defense Department authorization to shift $38 billion in war funds to its regular operating budget, a move that has been derided by Democrats and the White House, with the president threatening a veto.
The Times noted that if the bill is vetoed, it will be the first time the Defense Department policy bill has been rejected by a president in 50 years.
McCain's tenure has been characterized by one of bipartisanship, colleagues say.
"He has really made an effort to reach out to both sides of the aisle," Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal told the Times. "The appearance of partisanship may be a result of the circumstances he was dealt. Sequestration is sort of a slumbering issue that can no longer be avoided."
McCain is attempting to institute a range of reforms. For one, he is working to change the military acquisition system "that takes too long and costs too much." He has said, for example, that additional aircraft carriers cannot be justified.
He is also hoping to change the pension system for new members of the military, while expanding eligibility to a wider group beyond simply those who have served 20 years or more.
The reforms he is trying to enact are being heralded as long overdue.
"I cannot begin to explain the urgency of getting some of those reforms through," Bensahel told the Times. "As someone who has a strong reputation on defense and security issues, he may be able to get this through despite opposition."
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