Video: Obama picks GOP's McHugh as sec. of Army

updated 6/2/2009 2:22:17 PM ET 2009-06-02T18:22:17

President Barack Obama named a Republican congressman Tuesday to be the next secretary of the Army, bringing another member of the opposition into his administration.

Obama said New York Rep. John McHugh is "committed to keeping America's Army the best trained, the best equipped, the best land force the world has ever seen."

McHugh will ensure the country's troops can handle the new kinds of combat in the 21st century, including unconventional warfare, the president said.

McHugh has represented northern New York in the House of Representatives since 1993 and is the senior Republican member of the House Armed Services Committee.

"The Army's always had a special place in my heart," said McHugh, who has also served as co-chair of the House of Representatives Army Caucus and member of the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

In Congress, McHugh has 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 to save money.

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.

Since taking office, Obama has said he wanted to include Republicans in his administration.

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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.

A week after Gregg's nomination, he withdrew, citing "irresolvable conflicts" with the Democratic president.

If confirmed, McHugh's appointment would set off a special election for the House seat he has held for nine terms. Democrats held on to a conservative district in the state this year after Kristen Gillibrand was appointed to the Senate to fill Secretary of State Clinton's vacant seat.

The current Army Secretary, Pete Geren, was appointed to the post in 2007 after his predecessor was forced to resign in the aftermath of revelations about poor outpatient treatment of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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