If his first week as the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee is any indication, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., intends to continue to bellicose tone set by his predecessor, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
During his first full week as SASC ranking member, Inhofe first raised eyebrows when he announced he will oppose the nomination of a former-fellow Republican senator, Nebraska’s Chuck Hagel, to be the new U.S. defense secretary. Less than 48 hours, Inhofe was rhetorically slamming the sitting defense secretary.
In a letter sent Jan. 16 to Leon Panetta, Inhofe criticized the outgoing defense secretary for not personally doing enough to fend of a pending $500 billion reduction in planned Pentagon spending over the next 10 years.
“Rather than simply blaming Congress … it is my hope that you and the [Obama administration] will work with Congress to ensure that an agreement can be reached to spare our military from further devastating cuts,” Inhofe told Panetta.
Since twin $500 billion cuts to planned defense and domestic spending were ginned up in August 2011, Panetta has sharply panned lawmakers for failing to agree on the $1.2 trillion deficit-reduction measure needed to permanently turn off those cuts. The cuts are slated to kick in March 1. In his latest book, renowned Washington journalist Bob Woodward reported it was members of President Obama’s inner circle who ginned up the twin $500 billion cuts.
In a further sign his SASC ranking member tenure will be fiery, Inhofe took a political jab at the White House in his letter.
“For the past four years, this administration has pursued the systematic disarming of U.S. military power under the guise of defense budget cuts in order to maintain significantly higher levels of funding for non-security related domestic programs,” Inhofe wrote.
The senator’s letter wasn’t all political punching. He also did what congressional authorizers do: He requested information from Panetta about how many civilian workers would be furloughed or affected by hiring freezes if the sequester cuts occur, data on how training and operations would be impacted, and information on plans for major weapon programs under sequestration.