WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has chosen a Republican congressman to be the new secretary of the Army, adding to the ranks of opposition party figures in his administration.
Obama said that Rep. John McHugh, who has represented upstate New York, is committed to keeping America's Army "the best trained, the best equipped, the best land force the world has ever seen."
The president said that in his new job, McHugh will make sure the country's troops can handle the new kinds of combat in the 21st century, including nonconventional warfare. McHugh has been a key member of the House Armed Services Committee.
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Obama said that as secretary, McHugh also will understand the needs of America's servicemen and women.
If confirmed, McHugh will join Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a holdover from George W. Bush's Republican administration, at the Pentagon. Obama also selected former Republican Rep. Ray LaHood of Illinois as transportation secretary.
Obama tried to get another Republican into the administration, New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg. Obama nominated Gregg for commerce secretary after his first choice, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, withdrew amid a grand jury investigation.
But a week after his nomination, Gregg withdrew, citing "irresolvable conflicts" with the Democratic president.
In Congress, McHugh devoted himself to protecting and expanding Fort Drum in northern New York, home of the Army's 10th Mountain Division.
In recent years, Fort Drum has grown as its soldiers face long deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, but McHugh and other New York politicians have fought to keep Washington from shutting it down as a cost-saving measure.
McHugh and then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton even went so far as to write a letter of protest to a fictional character on the television show "The West Wing" after an episode suggested closing the base.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said he would "work to ensure a swift and smooth confirmation for my good friend."
"Two words that characterize John McHugh are class and service, and in this new job he will once again be able to use both," Schumer said in a statement.
The current Army Secretary, Pete Geren, has held the position since 2007.