Missouri Sen. Jim Talent will join the Senate Armed Services Committee when Congress convenes Tuesday, an appointment he said would afford an opportunity to help create jobs in the state.
The newly elected Republican discussed the appointment Friday and again Saturday, when he spoke in Belton, Mo., to a company of Army Reserve troops being deployed as part of the war on terrorism.
Talent's message to the reservists was that the "whole country is behind them."
"I really believe that's true," he said. "America and Missouri are so resolute about this action, and so strongly supportive of it."
Talent's membership on the military panel will determine much of his agenda in the Senate. He will serve on other committees -- possibly those dealing with energy, education and labor, agriculture or aging -- but leaders have not yet finalized those assignments.
Missouri is home to military installations, including Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood, and to major companies that produce planes, equipment and other supplies for the U.S. military.
"This is an opportunity for us to make the nation safer and, I hope, to create some jobs back home also," Talent said.
Former Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan served on the Armed Services Committee until Talent defeated her in the Nov. 5 election.
Talent had served on the House Armed Services Committee during his four terms as congressman from suburban St. Louis.
Keeping Missouri's new senator on the panel maintains the state's one-two punch: While Talent helps guide military policy, Missouri's senior senator, Republican Kit Bond, helps control the military's purse strings from his seat on the defense spending panel of the Appropriations Committee.
A big goal of Talent's is money-related. He wants Congress to keep defense spending at the same levels even in times of peace.
"In the past, what we've always done was as soon as the threat was over, defense spending plunged way down, so we had this roller coaster," Talent said. "We're spending more money now to restore readiness than we would have had to spend had we just maintained readiness."
On the Net
U.S. Military: www.defenselink.mil