WASHINGTON — Sen. Jim Inhofe was officially named the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday, giving military-rich Oklahoma influence over Pentagon spending and policy at a time of tightening budgets.
Inhofe, R-Tulsa, has been on the committee since 1994 and has devoted much of his time away from Washington to visiting military bases in Oklahoma and around the world. The Air Force has bases in Oklahoma City, Altus and Enid, and the Army has a post near Lawton and an ammunition depot in McAlester.
In taking the top Republican spot on Armed Services Committee, Inhofe will have to give up his position as the leading GOP senator on the Environment and Public Works Committee, where he has helped shape highway bills and worked against environmental regulations he deemed excessive.
Inhofe will be replacing Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, as the ranking Republican on Armed Services Committee. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, is chairman of the committee.
In a statement, Inhofe said his top priority is to avoid the “devastating cuts” scheduled to take effect in two months under the automatic spending cut process known as sequestration. The “fiscal cliff” deal approved on Tuesday only delayed those cuts.
“There are ways to save taxpayer dollars within the Department of Defense, but sequestration is the wrong approach,” Inhofe said. “It will have a terrible impact on our national security for decades to come if it is allowed to go forward. We have pushed these cuts off for two months, but now we must find a permanent fix.”
He said his other priorities will be missile defense and nuclear modernization; reform of the Pentagon's acquisition process; military readiness and capabilities; defense strategy and threat assessments; and implementing efficiencies within the Defense Department.