Today Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James is to visit Pease Air National Guard base at the invitation of U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte. It is another example of the leadership Ayotte has shown on defense issues down in D.C.
It has to be said that both Ayotte and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen have promoted and stood up for Pease and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Defense of the bases is not a partisan issue, for which all of New Hampshire can be thankful. Ayotte, though, has shown levels of creativity and assertiveness in her short tenure that have caught the attention of the Pentagon and the public.
Last September, Ayotte privately invited Secretary James to visit Pease. She then issued a public invitation during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, which was a clever way to make an offer the secretary could not easily refuse.
At another Armed Services Committee meeting last month, Ayotte questioned General Paul Selva, commander of Air Mobility Command, about the capabilities of the Pease-based 157th Air Refueling Wing. Instead of asserting the wing’s strengths herself, Ayotte got General Selva to issue his own praise on the record to a Senate committee. He called them “very high performing” and “a great unit.” Ayotte is getting top military brass to publicly promote Pease as whispers of more base closures swirl around D.C. Smart.
Beyond that, Ayotte continues to lead on national security issues despite being a freshman senator far outranked by other members of the Armed Services and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees. From Benghazi to the Crimea to the preparedness of U.S. forces and the condition of National Guard bases, Ayotte has risen to hold the administration accountable and raise important issues that might not receive much exposure otherwise. People in Washington are learning: on defense and national security issues, you have to listen to Kelly Ayotte.