WASHINGTON — Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, has been named chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee, a key panel that approved spending of almost $600 billion for the current year.
The subcommittee, with its House counterpart, makes spending decisions for the military and intelligence communities, the war in Afghanistan and other overseas contingency operations.
It also oversees expenditures on military personnel, procurement, research and development and other programs, such as one aimed at eliminating the threat to troops from makeshift bombs, the leading killer in Afghanistan.
Durbin, Illinois’ senior senator, is taking over the position after the death last month of Sen. Dan Inouye, D-Hawaii, who chaired both the appropriations committee and defense subcommittee.
Durbin, in a statement, said he looked forward to taking the reins of the panel. “As we wind down the war in Afghanistan, face upcoming budget cuts, and work to prepare our military for future threats, this subcommittee will focus on ensuring our military remains the most powerful, ready and capable force in the world.”
Durbin’s selection could benefit Illinois-based defense contractors, such as Boeing, and military installations in the state.
The subcommittee’s wide-ranging purview does not include military construction programs. The large spending measure it passed last August never won full approval in the Senate, so defense programs are being funded with a stop-gap measure.
Durbin, a 30-year veteran of Congress, has 26 years of experience as an appropriator in either the Senate or House, his aides said.
He is up for re-election in 2014. The subcommittee post means deep-pocketed defense subcontractors will likely look favorably on his candidacy, should he run again.