The retirement of House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) takes one of the most influential and knowledgeable lawmakers out of the public defense realm.
Thornberry announced his retirement Monday, but his decision doesn’t seem surprising considering Republican House members can only serve in leadership positions for three terms. Thornberry spent his last two terms as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and his most recent as the top minority member, term limiting him out of further management over the committee.
“As we’ve seen with other senior members who are termed out from a chairman or ranking member they’ve retired,” Joe Heck, former House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee Chairman, and now Chairman of the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service, told Federal News Network. “It’s hard to go from chair and ranking to rank and file again. You feel you want to leave at the top of your game when you’ve had the most impact.”
Thornberry entered office in 1994 with the Contract with America Republicans, but after 25 years he’s deciding to call it quits.
“In January 2021, I will no longer have the honor of representing the people of the 13th District of Texas, but I will never be indifferent to the responsibility each of us has to serve and protect our beloved nation,” he said in a statement.
Under Thornberry’s leadership the House Armed Services Committee completely revamped the Defense Department’s acquisition system through defense authorization acts. The laws lessened reporting and documentation required by program managers, pushed acquisition authority from DoD to the military service level and created new ways for the military to buy weapons faster and innovate more.
“Mac had an out-sized influence on the committee primarily because of his depth of understanding of the issues, especially procurement and acquisition,” Heck said. “Also because of his management style. He is humble, soft spoken and worked to build consensus and was able to get a lot of things accomplished during his chairmanship because of his willingness to reach across the aisle and work with members on their priorities.”
Thornberry is the sixth Republican from Texas not to seek reelection in the next cycle.