November 1, 2006  

The return of oversight and investigations

Rep. Ike Skelton said he would revive the subcommittee on investigations and examine contract abuses and mistakes in the conduct of the war in Iraq if Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in the Nov. 7 election.

Skelton, now the senior Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, would probably become committee chairman in a Democrat-controlled House.

“It’s imperative that we restore long-absent oversight” in the House Armed Services Committee, Skelton, of Missouri, said in an interview.

He compared the role of the Armed Services oversight subcommittee to the investigative role played by another prominent Missouri Democrat, Sen. Harry Truman, who headed the Truman Commission to investigate military contractor corruption during World War II.

Skelton cited even earlier congressional oversight. “During Lincoln’s day, Congress had a committee on the conduct of the war,” he said. “Because of the numerous mistakes the administration has made, I would anticipate taking a look at some of those mistakes and how they may be corrected.”

Beyond investigations, Skelton said, if he becomes Armed Services Committee chairman, he would emphasize military readiness, particularly of the Army and Marine Corps, where readiness of nondeployed units has dropped sharply and whose chiefs have complained to lawmakers about needing billions of dollars more in their budgets for repairing and replacing war-damaged equipment.

“I am really concerned about the readiness of our armed forces. Should another contingency arise, will we be ready for it?” Skelton asked.

As committee chairman, Skelton said, he would stress “taking care of soldiers and their families,” from medical care to better armor and jammers to thwart improvised explosive devices in Iraq.

Improving readiness and taking better care of troops means maintaining a “robust” military budget, he said.

Skelton declined to endorse the calls by other Democrats for setting a timetable to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.

“At the end of the day, that’s an administration decision,” he said. Skelton said he recommended to President Bush a formula for bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq — “for every three brigades Iraq stands up fully ready, we redeploy one American brigade.” AFJ