WHEELING - U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin is now chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Airland for the 113th Congress.
The subcommittee oversees the air and ground equipment of all four military service branches, including the National Guard and Reserves, said Manchin, D-W.Va. It previously was chaired by former Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.
"The most important thing, Airland oversees the National Guard's and Reserves' equipment issues," Manchin said. "We have a lot of refitting and restoration of equipment that comes out of theater and war. There's so much going on there, and so much more efficiency the Guard can do to save the Department of Defense millions of dollars."
Manchin said he plans to go out and visit National Guard bases to see how guardsmen can be used more effectively to bring down the overall cost of military and defense. He said it "sure didn't hurt" that as governor he previously was commander-in-chief over the West Virginia National Guard, which he said is known for doing "an excellent job."
"There are people who say the Guard can't do this or can't do that, but I know what the guard can accomplish and achieve for our military and our Department of Defense," Manchin said. "I want to see that they get a fair shake. That's my main goal - to see that the Guard is treated fairly."
Maj. Gen. James A. Hoyer, the adjutant general for West Virginia, said having Manchin as chairman of the Airland subcommittee will be beneficial to both the nation and West Virginia. He also pointed to the cost-effectiveness of the National Guard.
"The National Guard costs significantly less than the active component," he said. "But we have to have a balance between the two. Having someone as subcommittee chairman who has been a governor and commander-in-chief could be of significant value to the nation and National Guard."
Hoyer added there is little full-time military presence in West Virginia and that the state's National Guard must take on the role when needed in the state.
"West Virginia depends on the Guard to be the significant responder in an emergency," he said. "It has the capability to serve that role in a national mission.
"This makes it significant for our senator to be a part of that committee and to serve as chairman where he can set priorities and formulate an agenda," Hoyer added. "It's a pretty significant thing to have (Manchin) in that capacity."
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Manchin will continue to serve on the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities and the Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support. He is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. And last week, Manchin also was named chairman of the Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining.
His other committee assignments include a spot on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs and the Senate Special Committee on Aging.