Thornberry to head armed forces panel

It’s official: Mac Thornberry is going to become the next chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee.

They’re cheering at three key locations in Thornberry’s sprawling 13th Congressional District in Texas: at the Bell/Textron and the Pantex operations in Amarillo and at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls.

Thornberry’s constituency includes those enormously important operations.

Here’s the question: Is the veteran Texas Panhandle congressman going to protect these operations from possible budget cuts at the expense of other equally important defense-related projects?

I pose the question because for the two decades Thornberry has served in Congress, he’s been ensconced comfortably and quietly on the back bench. He hasn’t made much noise about the work he does on behalf of those projects. He does so quietly and with little fanfare.

Now, though, he assumes a high-profile role as chairman of one the House’s most visible committees. He’s become the go-to guy on armed services issues. The pressure is going to be on the congressman to deliver the goods back home while listening with a fair and impartial ear to the needs of his colleagues’ districts elsewhere. There might even be colleagues on his committee who’ll be sure to push hard for spending in their districts. With limited money — relatively speaking — to go around, the House panel is going to have to husband its resources carefully.

How is Chairman Thornberry going to respond to those pressures with the eyes of the nation fixed on how he conducts himself and how he runs this congressional committee?

Good luck, Mr. Chairman.