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FCW : January 2014
January 2014 FCW.COM 21 of only 10 Republicans who voted against it, but some of the others objected because they said the total spending was too high. Other senior lawmakers --- including key players on the Armed Services and Appropriations committees --- agree with Forbes, at least in general terms, that Pen- tagon spending has dropped too low. But they have failed to build the requisite bipar- tisanship to replace the sequester. The endless budget negotiations have been a familiar pattern in the past three years. Republicans have stood steadfast against tax hikes while Democrats object to entitlement cuts that might offset the cuts at DOD. And neither party is willing to repeal the sequester and accept the result- ing increase in the de cit, which remains at historically high levels --- $680 billion in scal 2013 --- despite falling by half since a record $1.4 trillion four years earlier. In its never-ending budget gamesman- ship, Congress faces a Jan. 15 deadline for extending the current spending bill, which was largely a status quo extension from the previous year. Republican leaders have insisted they will not be part of another fed- eral shutdown. Beyond spending issues Forbes, a resident of Chesapeake near the sprawling Navy facilities in the Tidewater area, is deeply familiar with the implications of the budget cuts. Many of his constituents work at the facilities, though few are actually in his district, which extends north to the suburbs west of Richmond and west to rural "southside" Virginia. Instead, he said his work as a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and chairman of its Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee is what has triggered his concerns about the consequences of the steep military spending cuts. "My No. 1 goal is the defense of the United States of America," he said. "No one can argue I'm doing this for my district." Forbes entered the House in 2001 by winning a special election for a seat long held by conservative Democrats. Since then, he has made his seat safely Republican, with some helpful redistricting tweaks by the Virginia legislature. If anything, his re-election challenge could come from a Tea Party primary candidate accusing Forbes of being a big spender. "My district can be split on some of these issues," he conceded. On the Armed Services Committee, Forbes has sought to extend his work beyond spending issues. He recently took charge of a review of U.S. mili- tary activities in Asia and the Paci c region. With a bipartisan and policy- driven review that committee members have said is consistent with the panel's long traditions, they have sought to offer insight and possible encouragement for Obama's much-touted pivot to focus on Asia --- especially the growing domi- nance of China. "It's an excellent opportunity to build on the positive relationships we have in that area...to make that relationship [with China] work," said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), who is the commit- tee's ranking member. But Forbes, who has shown a long- standing interest in the threat posed by China, warned that the Pentagon's spending woes will limit the potential impact of U.S. intentions to rebalance its overseas priorities. "I give the president good marks because the rhetoric was needed...but the resources to make the rhetoric have some meaning have not happened," Forbes said. "Our allies and our competitors in the area see that we are not spending money on defense." Leadership prospects His interest in the committee's broader activities and his willingness to criticize party leaders for their han- dling of the budget have become all the more timely because of the prospect that House Republicans' term- limits rule for committee chairmen will force Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) to step down at the end of 2014. The scuttlebutt is that Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) is the front-runner to become the next chairman. But Thorn- berry, who has made two unsuccessful bids to lead House committees, has been criticized by some as not suf ciently active in Republican political or other leadership activities. Forbes, who earlier served as chairman of the Virginia Republican party and gave a boost to Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) when he rst ran for Congress in 2000, has downplayed public speculation about his ambitions. "I don't have the time" to focus on the chairmanship, he said, though he did not rule out making a bid for it. However, given the uncertainty about the current House GOP leadership team, the continuing budget con icts could in uence Forbes' prospects for the top committee post. ■ Our allies and our competitors in the area see that we are not spending money on defense. AP IMAGES