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This article was Originally Published on Jun 25, 2004 in Volume: 3  Issue: 2

View From the Hill - Rep. Kay Granger, R-TX

Aerospace Champion Rep. Kay Granger, R-TX, co-chair of the Industry Sector Working Group on Aerospace and Defense, spoke recently with MAT.

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Rep. Kay Granger, R-TX, co-chair of the Industry Sector Working Group on Aerospace and Defense, spoke recently with MAT.

Representative Kay Granger of Texas is widely seen as a rising star among House Republicans, particularly on defense and aerospace issues. She recently was appointed co-chair of the Industry Sector Working Group on Aerospace and Defense, which is part of an effort by GOP leaders to work with representatives of various industries on economic and regulatory issues. The four-term member from Fort Worth is a deputy majority whip in the House and serves on the Appropriations Committee and Select Committee on Homeland Security.
Granger recently spoke with MAT Editor Harrison Donnelly.

Q: What is the purpose of the Working Group on Aerospace and Defense, and on what issues does it plan to focus?

A: The Republican leadership asked me to chair that in the House, along with Sen. Saxby Chambliss [R-GA] in the Senate. We’ve put about 30 representatives of large and small defense companies together, and asked them to take off their company hats and try to put an industry hat on and help us find solutions to common problems. We asked them to list the issues that they think we can agree on and move forward together.

Some of the things that I’m most interested in include acquisition reform—how do we get the best possible weapons systems to our soldiers and move faster on those programs, instead of sometimes taking a couple of dozen years to work on. The process has become very cumbersome and costly, and so we want to know what we can do to make sure we get the very best, but do it in a form that has savings and helps contain the costs of those programs. Another important area for me is to be proactive in ensuring that our defense industrial base remains healthy and competitive. They’re coming back with their issues and feeding them to us, and we’ll break into smaller groups and try to take on some of those issues.

Q: As a member of Congress who is a leader on defense issues, what does military transformation mean to you?

A: Military transformation applies to many areas. To me, it means ensuring that we have the most dominant military in the world for the next 50 years, and that we continue to develop advanced systems and technologies and programs. Secretary Rumsfeld recently said that we need a lighter, more agile force that can move quickly and have a smaller footprint. Paying attention to that really affects everything. We’re getting ready to do another round of the Base Realignment and Closure [BRAC] process, and we’re also realigning our overseas installations. That’s important so that we have an infrastructure that supports transformation. Creating more joint bases, for example, is very important. I have a very successful joint base in my district, Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, Fort Worth. Transformation also means that we have to develop the most advanced weapons systems, aircraft and military technologies.

Q: What do you see as the lessons of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom regarding the need to transform our air combat capabilities?

A: The primary lesson is the absolute importance of air superiority. We couldn’t have had the success we have had in Afghanistan and Iraq without air superiority. Some might argue that this proves that we’ve already got the best and that we don’t have to make changes. But I say the opposite is true—we have to continue to develop aircraft for the future, like the F/A-22, the Joint Strike Fighter and the V-22. If the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq had arsenals of the most advanced surface to air missiles on the market today, we wouldn’t have achieved the same level of air superiority, and those campaigns would have been much more difficult.

So we have to prepare for whatever the future enemies and threats will be. The world has changed so much. How many experts would have predicted three decades ago that the Cold War would be over and we’d be fighting the global war on terrorism? There are some that could have, 20 years before or 10 years before, if they’ve spent their careers doing that. But it’s interesting, when you think about it, that in Vice President Cheney’s confirmation hearing as secretary of defense in 1989, he wasn’t asked a single question about Iraq, and Secretary Rumsfeld wasn’t asked about Afghanistan when he was confirmed in 2001. So what we’ve got to do is make sure that we do learn lessons, and one of the lessons is that things are going to change, and they can change very quickly.

Q: A major portion of the F/A-22 is built in your district, and the Joint Strike Fighter [JSF] is assembled there. What is your sense of the status in Congress of these projects, which have been under a lot of scrutiny on Capitol Hill as the budget process moves forward?

A: With our current budget deficit, we’re looking at every part of the budget, and we should, including defense spending. F/A-22 and the JSF are two of the largest aircraft programs in the defense budget, so it’s natural that people would take a hard look at them and scrutinize those defense programs. That is fair, and I’m working hard to make the case that they should be funded at the level of the president’s request. If we take money away, then it really makes the challenges worse, because as we slow those programs down, they can become more costly. I think the F/A-22 and JSF will make it through the budget process. They have widespread support in the Senate and House, but we have to make our case.

Q: The V-22 Osprey is also developed and manufactured in your district. How important is it to transformation, and do you think the program has turned a corner in Congress?

A: I think it has turned the corner. It’s been on the drawing board for a long time, but it’s absolutely essential to the DoD’s transformation efforts. If there was ever anything that was transformational and revolutionary, it certainly is the Osprey. It flies at twice the speed, carries three times the payload and has three to five times the range of current helicopters, so it is revolutionary and very important. We were talking earlier about having troops who were agile and can move fast. The V-22 can get those troops in and out of remote war zones faster and safer than before. The Marine Corps and the AF Special Operations Command have it as their number-one transformational priority. We’re building two different versions of that, and the Navy also wants to buy the V-22, so it’s very important. It has turned the corner and has done very well in testing.

Q: Some members of Congress are arguing that the United States can preserve its military advantage, while saving billions of dollars, by focusing on upgrading the technology in existing military hardware, rather than developing new platforms. What are your views on this line of thinking?

A: That line of thinking is very shortsighted. I completely disagree, but I do hear some people saying it. When they say that, I reply that we have done that for years, but we will not be able to guarantee our future superiority if that’s all we do. Continually upgrading current systems can only get us so far. So in looking at the F/A-22, JSF and V-22, we’re taking huge steps forward in transformation and modernization.

Q: With the armed forces heavily engaged in fighting the war on terrorism around the world, is there any message you would like to leave with members of the military and their families?

A: I served on the Armed Services Committee, and then moved to Appropriations, and now serve on the Military Constructions Subcommittee. I get to travel all over the world and meet our troops. I was in Iraq in September. They’re the best-trained, hardest-working military in the world. I’m always so impressed, knowing the job that they’re doing. All you have to do is watch what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq to know that they deserve the best technology, the best equipment and the best support we can give them. They deserve nothing less. I also think it’s important that we remember that the families back home also deserve the best support. So a lot of what we’ve done on Military Construction has been for quality of life, to ensure that they’re not worried about their families back home, and that their families back home are taken care of when they serve overseas. I think a big “thank you” and appreciation for what they are doing is the important thing to remember.

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