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Sunday, September 14, 2008

McCain on FCS: Flip-flop or fib?

Army Times

By Bradley Peniston - Staff writer

Has Sen. John McCain renounced his longtime antagonism toward the Army’s Future Combat Systems?

On Sept. 8, the Republican presidential candidate told a rally crowd in Lee’s Summit, Mo., about an Obama video message to a liberal advocacy group.

“He promised them he would, quote, ‘slow our development of Future Combat Systems,’” McCain said, according to wire reports. “This is not a time to slow our development of Future Combat Systems.”

Flashback to July, however, when his campaign furnished McCain’s economic plan to The Washington Post, declaring that “there are lots of procurements — Airborne Laser, [C-17] Globemaster, Future Combat System [sic] — that should be ended and the entire Pentagon budget should be scrubbed.”

In fact, McCain has long criticized the over-budget, behind-schedule FCS program. In 2005, he blasted the Army for allowing the program to balloon to $161 billion, and forced the service to rewrite the main FCS contract.

So where does McCain really stand? Some bloggers and analysts have suggested that he used the term “future combat systems” generically. Obama’s campaign maintains their candidate was speaking specifically about FCS, in which case McCain may be twisting his rival’s words.

Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute called it deceitful.

“McCain’s interpretation of Obama’s position is typical of the way in which the Republicans have twisted Democratic views in order to undercut their opponents and at the same time obscure the past positions of the Republicans,” Thompson said. “Future Combat Systems is the centerpiece of Army modernization. However, McCain has been more critical of it than anyone else in the chamber. Obama has been much more detailed and thoughtful in his comments about future military investment than McCain’s very superficial statements.”

Officials with the McCain campaign did not return phone calls and emails requesting clarification.

What Obama said

McCain was quoting from a campaign video message from Obama to a liberal group that seeks to cut Pentagon funds by 15 percent.

“I will cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending,” Obama said in the video, recorded earlier this year. “I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of Future Combat Systems.”

F. Whitten Peters, a defense adviser for the Obama campaign and former secretary of the Air Force, confirmed that the Democratic candidate was talking about the Army program.

“Obama had said that he wanted to review FCS and he thought that he might want to slow the fielding,” Peters said. “His feeling is there really needs to be an overall strategic review of larger weapon programs to decide which ones are sufficiently important to keep going and which ones may need to be scaled back.”

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