Washington: After a 25-year career in the national security arena, much of it spent in Washington, defense analyst and Oklahoma native Dakota Wood is heading home.
Wood, a former Marine Corps officer and now defense analyst at the prestigious Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, has joined the growing pool of GOP candidates vying to replace GOP Rep. Dan Boren in the state’s 2nd congressional district.
Boren, who announced he would not be seeking re-election in 2012, holds key positions on both the House Armed Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Wood is the latest member of the Washington defense community to take a shot at Congress. John Douglass, former chief of the Aerospace Industry Association, is the Democratic challenger for Virginia’s 10th congressional district, running against GOP incumbent Rep. Frank Wolf.
He plans to leave his position at CSBA at the end of this month to campaign full time.
But Wood faces a tough road ahead in Oklahoma, according to one longtime local political observer.
D.E. Smoot, political staff writer for the Muskogee Phoenix — one of the largest newspapers in northeast Oklahoma — said a number of Wood’s opponents on the GOP side are better known and better financed in the state.
The current front runner, state Rep. George Faught, who represents Muskogee and the surrounding county, boasts strong name recognition and is backed by a number of members of the state GOP party, Smoot said.
Wood greatest political liability is limited name recognition. Leave his native Rogers County in the northwestern corner of the district and few people know him, Smoot said.
Wood’s political opponents will also look to take his years of Washington experience and cast him as a Beltway insider, out of touch with the needs of Oklahoma voters.
That type of attack will be no surprise, Wood told me today, arguing that his Washington experience will be more of a benefit than a liability come election day.
Since his work with CSBA focused on national security issues — not politics — Wood’s time spent in Washington should be less of a concern to Oklahoma voters, he said.
Plus, knowing how the U.S. government actually works and, more importantly, how to get things achieved in that system, should allow him to sidestep many of the pitfalls that trap first-time lawmakers when they arrive in Washington, Wood added.
If elected, Wood will need those skills to tackle a national security apparatus that is looking to bounce back from two wars and coming under increasing pressure to cut costs.
The Hill and DoD will have to get “very realistic” on what needs to be done with defense spending, he said. The United States has “painted ourselves into a corner” financially, which has boxed lawmakers in the position of “choosing the least bad option” for defense, Wood said.
The biggest question facing the department is how small can the military get before it becomes ineffective, he said.
None of those questions can be answered unless Congress and the White House are willing to engage in a real conversation about reducing entitlement spending.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently echoed that same sentiment, telling reporters last month that defense spending cuts, along with reductions to entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, would be the only way to put a dent in the national debt.