Warren and McCain Could Be Unlikely Allies on Armed Services
Sen. Elizabeth Warren could become an unlikely ally to Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee looking to hold the Pentagon accountable and cut waste and fraud, experts said.
The Massachusetts Democrat announced Wednesday night that she would serve on the committee beginning in January, touting her family’s history of military service and her commitment to oversight of the military.
If Warren brings the accountability she previously thrust on banks and Wall Street to the Pentagon, she could find herself with some unexpected bedfellows, said Christopher Anderson, the president of the Massachusetts High Technology Council.
“It’s an interesting likelihood that in the pursuit of more effective and transparent government spending, she may become an ally with Sen. [John] McCain,” he said.
McCain has used his platform on the committee to rail against projects that are behind schedule and over budget.
One area Warren may focus on is improving the procurement system, which would cut costs and increase efficiency, long a priority of both McCain and his counterpart on the House side, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas.
Anderson said McCain and Warren will likely be able to team up and put aside differences if they can focus on protecting the warfighter. The two have worked together before on banking bills such as the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act, which they introduced together in 2015. Warren also came to the defense of McCain when then-candidate Donald Trump criticized his military record, calling the president-elect a “blowhard.”
Michael O’Hanlon, an analyst with the Brookings Institution, said Warren could be a “formidable force” on the committee, “as contrarian, as watchdog, as fresh thinker.”
Warren is also likely to focus on driving innovation in the Defense Department given her home state’s diverse roster of technology companies.
That has also been a priority for Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who set up a Defense Innovation Unit Experimental hub in Cambridge. Anderson said he expected Warren not only to work to keep Carter’s plans in place, but also to accelerate programs to increase connections between tech companies and the Defense Department.
“I think whatever Carter started is interesting. I think it can be expanded and built upon and she and Niki Tsongas in the House … can take advantage of our innovation skills and educated workforce,” Anderson said.
Innovative companies in Massachusetts are especially focused on robotics, big analytics data, and cyber, Anderson said. Warren mentioned cyber specifically in a tweet shortly after announcing her new seat on the committee.
“As we’ve seen with the recent Russian cyberattacks, the nature of our national security threats is changing, and we need to change too,” she said.
It’s unclear what moves on the Senate Armed Services Committee opened the seat for Warren.