McKeon Makes It Official, Announces Retirement

The California Republican says Rep. Mac Thornberry should succeed him as House Armed Services Committee chairman.

McKeon: One of the last hawks.
National Journal
Jan. 16, 2014, 4:34 a.m.

Howard P. “Buck” McK­eon made the worst-kept secret in the de­fense world of­fi­cial Thursday, an­noun­cing that he will not seek reelec­tion next year.

“I will con­tin­ue as chair­man of the com­mit­tee throughout the rest of this year and my term. We’ve got a lot of things that we need to do to fin­ish up,” the Cali­for­nia Re­pub­lic­an told Real Clear De­fense in an ex­clus­ive in­ter­view. “But I am term-lim­ited as chair­man, and I didn’t want people say­ing I was look­ing over the shoulder of the next chair­man.”

McK­eon, 75, made a form­al — and at times tear­ful — an­nounce­ment from the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee hear­ing room Thursday morn­ing, but the com­mit­tee chair­man has long been the sub­ject of re­tire­ment ru­mors. He called the fact that he is term-lim­ited as chair­man the “biggest mo­tiv­at­or” in his de­cision to re­tire. 

Rep. Mac Thorn­berry, the com­mit­tee’s vice chair­man, is seen as the fron­trun­ner in the race to suc­ceed McK­eon in the com­mit­tee’s top spot. McK­eon pre­vi­ously ran against Thorn­berry to be­come the com­mit­tee’s rank­ing mem­ber in 2009.

McK­eon’s time as chair comes as the HASC isn’t as power­ful as it used to be, with the De­fense De­part­ment — like the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment at large — fa­cing huge budget con­traints. And with many mem­bers of Con­gress fo­cused on cut­ting the de­fi­cit, Pentagon spend­ing is no longer sac­red to some.

“I am con­vinced that he’s ready to go and that there won’t be any slip­page if the Steer­ing Com­mit­tee se­lects him to be the chair­man. He’s up to speed, he’s ready to go, and I think he ought to be the next chair­man of the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee,” McK­eon said.

Though it’s been long spec­u­lated that McK­eon would not seek reelec­tion, it’s un­clear when he made the de­cision. A loc­al me­dia out­let said Tues­day that he would make the an­nounce­ment on Thursday. Roll Call picked up that re­port, but McK­eon’s spokes­per­son Alissa Mc­Cur­ley pushed back, say­ing “he has yet to de­cide wheth­er he will seek reelec­tion.”

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