WASHINGTON - U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday nominated Republican congressman John McHugh as secretary of the Army, the latest move to tap an opposition party member for the Democratic administration's top ranks.
McHugh, 60, the senior Republican on the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, has been critical of some Obama policies, including proposals to wring savings out of the Pentagon budget.
But the New York lawmaker is known as a moderate in Congress and has been praised by some fellow lawmakers for his collegial approach.
As secretary of the Army, he will ensure that our soldiers are trained and equipped to meet the full spectrum of challenges and threats of our time -- the conventional and the unconventional, the nation state and the terrorist network. Obama said at the White House with McHugh at his side.
McHugh would join Defense Secretary Robert Gates, whom Obama kept on from the Bush administration, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former congressman, as another Republican in the Democratic administration.
The selection comes as Obama presses ahead with a retooled strategy for Afghanistan, where he has ordered a troop increase, and is seeking to make good on his promise to wind down the war in Iraq.
At the Pentagon, Gates has pledged to rein in big cost overruns in weapons programs and to overhaul spending to give more emphasis to irregular warfare. But proposals to cut items such as the F-22 fighter jet have sparked concern in Congress.
McHugh has expressed wariness about proposed reductions to some programs, such as missile defense, but agreed with the overall goal of cutting waste from the defense budget.
Last month, McHugh joined several other Republicans to introduce legislation aimed at preventing terrorism suspects held at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from being transferred to the United States without meeting strict conditions, including the approval of states.
Obama, who has promised to close the internationally condemned prison by January, said last month that some detainees would be moved to U.S. prisons, some would face military tribunals and some would be sent to other countries.
The Democratic-led Congress has blocked funds for the closure until he provides a detailed plan for the inmates.