Obama Army Secretary Nominee Tussled With Obama, Gates Over Pentagon Budget

As Eric Kleefeld reported, President Obama will nominate Rep. John McHugh (R-NY)–ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee–to be the Secretary of the Army later today. If all goes as planned, though, McHugh will be working in a Pentagon he has recently, and dubiously, attacked.

In April, McHugh criticized the administration’s Pentagon budget outline, which he inaccurately characterized as a proposed defense spending cut. He suggested, moreover, that Pentagon officials had complained to committee minority that the budget would slash defense spending by $8 billion. That claim couldn’t be verified, but Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters, basically, that McHugh was fudging.

“Some of these things we have put in the base budget we elected to put into the base budget to send a signal to the troops that these things were going to be a permanent part of the budget, that we weren’t going to be dependent on a supplemental,” Gates said. “[W]hat you chose to put into the supplemental and so on, is probably how Mr. McHugh gets to his numbers.”Committee Republicans later complained that the Gates budget process was too opaque, latching on to a non-disclosure agreement Gates made members of his staff sign to prevent details of the proposal from leaking to members of Congress and the press.

Eleven Republican members signed a May 5 letter to Gates to that effect, but, perhaps notably, McHugh was not among them.

If confirmed, McHugh will join Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Gates himself as Republican appointees in the Obama administration. LaHood and Gates are cabinet officials. McHugh would not be.