Outgoing HASC chairman stresses bipartisanship
Published: December 2, 2010
WASHINGTON – Outgoing House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, who has represented his Missouri district in Congress for the last 34 years, was among several Democrats to give a farewell speech to colleagues this week. His remarks predictably thanked friends and staffers, but also focused on the tone and focus of Congress’ military work.
Last month incoming HASC chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., praised Skelton for his bipartisan approach to nearly all the issues before the committee, a tradition that both men say goes back for decades. Skelton, in his remarks, said he hopes that professionalism will continue in what’s likely to be a contentious new Congress.
Here are excerpts from his remarks:
“American politics through the ages have frequently been rough and tumble, and at times some might even say mean. But to my mind, national security transcends politics. In the realm of national security, we must make the effort to work together in a bipartisan way, to stand before our allies and the world as a united front, to strengthen our nation’s defenses under the banner of consensus.
“As Chairman, I have always sought to maintain this bipartisan atmosphere, and I hope the culture instilled by many HASC chairs who served before will carry on under the leadership of the new chair in the coming Congress. I am confident it will.
“… When returning Members and new Members arrive at the Capitol for the new Congress in January, they will confront enormous challenges as they work to chart the course for our country in the days ahead. These challenges include the economy and jobs, health care, and education, to name a few. But I implore our citizens and our leaders not to forget that we are a nation at war. Unless our government protects our national security, none of these other important issues can receive the attention they deserve.
“… My greatest concern is that a chasm will develop between those who protect our freedoms and those who are being protected. I’ve often talked about what I perceive to be a civil-military gap, a lack of understanding between civilians and the military that has grown in the era of an all-volunteer force. For those not in uniform or connected to the military in some way, it’s easy not to relate to our service members’ difficulties as they deal with the trials of war and combat, multiple deployments, family separations, missed birthdays, and other sacrifices too numerous to mention.
“As a nation, we must strive to narrow that gap and bring our citizens together. United we stand, divided we fall. The men and women in uniform who form the backbone of our security cannot devote their all to protect us if we fail to provide what they need to perform their missions, stay safe in the field, and take good care of themselves and their families at home.
“… I’ve always considered each young man and woman in uniform as a son or daughter. They are national treasures and their sacrifices cannot be taken for granted. They are not chess pieces to be moved upon a board. Each and every one is irreplaceable. Issues of national security and war and peace are too important to lose sight of the real men and women who answer our nation’s call and do the bidding of the Commander-In-Chief.