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Senator plucks panel plum

TIMES WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT
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WASHINGTON — Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand will receive a long-sought-after slot on the Senate Armed Services Committee, her office announced today.


The position gives Mrs. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., a platform from which to advocate for Fort Drum, as well as influence over military policies in general, just as her predecessor, former Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., had during several years on the panel.


"I look forward to working to strengthen our security and keep America safe, and I am committed to creating better opportunities for troops and military families to get ahead here at home, and growing our whole economy by connecting our military with emerging private sector high-tech and manufacturing industries," Mrs. Gillibrand said in a statement.


She had asked for a seat on the committee after former New York Gov. David A. Paterson appointed her to the Senate position in early 2009. At that time, however, she was given a position on the Foreign Relations Committee instead. She will give up that committee seat, said her spokeswoman, Bethany Lesser.


Mrs. Gillibrand served on the House Armed Services Committee when she represented a Hudson Valley district from 2007 until joining the Senate.


One of the early issues she will confront is proposed budget cuts by the Defense Department, as well as proposed reductions in the size of the active-duty Army. Early indications are that Republicans are quite opposed to those ideas and that Democrats are more receptive; defense officials took criticism from GOP members on the House Armed Services panel Wednesday.


Her prepared comments reflected Mrs. Gillibrand's focus on military family issues. Some of those could be in the forefront as well, as the Pentagon tries to push through increases in out-of-pocket expenses for the military's health care insurance program, Tricare.


The Armed Services Committee also will oversee the implementation of the repeal of the ban on openly gay and lesbian service members, a cause Mrs. Gillibrand took up last year.


For Mrs. Clinton, the Armed Services Committee proved a good place to build national security credentials and to work with Republicans. In that position, she had many opportunities to work with the north country's congressman at the time, Rep. John M. McHugh, R-Pierrepont Manor, and became an important figure in shepherding projects related to Fort Drum through the committee.


The chairman of the committee is Sen. Carl M. Levin, D-Mich.


Mrs. Gillibrand maintains membership on the Agriculture Committee, the Environment and Public Works Committee and the Committee on Aging.

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