During his time in the Senate, McCain’s pushed to kill a number of programs, often in the name of curbing government waste. In the 1990s, he tried to stop construction of the third Seawolf-class submarine, USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23). That loss was good news for the Navy, which has turned that sub into a special missions platform.The problem, is that cutting so-called Pentagon waste can leave the troops having to soldier on with older gear. In 2002, the Air Force had reached a deal with Boeing to lease 100 tanker variants based on the 767 airframe. McCain butted in, and eventually the deal got called off. All this time, the bulk of the American tanker force consisted of KC-135 tankers – the youngest of which entered service in 1965. The Air Force soon found itself in a long, lengthy drama over the KC-X program, which included media fights, an award to Airbus for the KC-45, a protest that overturned the award to Airbus, and the military soldiering on with the aging KC-135. Just last month, the KC-46A Pegasus – based on the 767 – has begun testing for the Air Force, thirteen years after McCain helped halt the 2002 leasing deal for what was virtually the same aircraft.
It’s a little more nuanced than “It’s all McCain’s fault.”
But he really has been on the wrong side of a lot of arguments. There’s a big difference between “expensive equipment” and “wasteful spending.”