Missouri’s military expert in Congress is encouraged by the Obama Administration’s new strategy for Afghanistan.
West-Central Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton , chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, doesn’t dwell on reports that there were deep divisions within the Obama Administration on the proper approach to Afghanistan.
"Well, the good news is we have a strategy," Skelton tells the Missourinet. "We have not had a strategy regarding Afghanistan since Day One. I think it’s a solid one. I have reviewed it extensively."
Skelton says the United States will need more troops and trainers to carry it out, some of whom must come from allies, including NATO. Skelton adds that there must be a civilian aspect to the strategy.
"You have to do away with the heroin traffic," Skelton says. "It’s an uphill battle."
Skelton says terrorism can be rooted out of the rough terrain of Afghanistan, but the US faces a long, hard, difficult battle. Skelton believes President Obama’s recent travels through Europe and visit to NATO will help win the support the country needs. NATO has promised another 5,000 troops. Skelton says more will be needed.
The Defense Department has unveiled in FY 2010 budget. Skelton says he’s pleased the spending blueprint outlined by Defense Secretary Robert Gates focuses on the troops. Skelton calls the budget very "troop friendly". It would expand the Army and Marines. Skelton has called for such a move for years.
Skelton predicts the weapon system recommendations will spark controversy in Congress and will have to undergo the scrutiny of his committee. Gates has recommended the proposed Army Future Combat Systems be scrapped and the bidding process be re-opened.
Senator Bond has criticized the Defense budget’s call to end production of the C-17 transport plane and to scale back production of the F/A 18 fighter jet, both built by Boeing in St. Louis. Bond says the Obama Administration should have waited for the U.S. Department of Defense Air Mobility Capabilities study, which is due to be released in June before making decisions on weapon’s systems.