The indictment Tuesday of longtime House Armed Services Committee (HASC) member Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.) raises questions for how his championed U.S. military projects will be affected should he be convicted and forced to give up his seat.
Duncan, a Marine Corps combat veteran who is running for re-election this November in California’s 50th district, has been indicted along with his wife, Margaret, for allegedly using $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses. A federal grand jury indicted the couple, and Hunter is also accused of filing false campaign reports and wire frauds, according to news reports.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement Tuesday evening that “the charges against Rep. Hunter are deeply serious.”
“The Ethics Committee deferred its investigation at the request of the Justice Department,” he added. “Now that he has been indicted, Rep. Hunter will be removed from his committee assignments pending the resolution of this matter.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a Tuesday evening statement that Ryan must “immediately call on Congressman Hunter to resign, and affirm that no one is above the law.” Hunter intimated in a statement released Wednesday that he plans to continue running for re-election, stating, “I am not going anywhere.”
Hunter, 41, sits on the HASC Subcommittees on Strategic Forces as well as Seapower and Projection Forces. He chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation and sits on the Subcommittee on Aviation. He is also a member of the Education and the Workforce Committee.
Hunter has deployed twice to Iraq as well as Afghanistan and remains in the Marine Corps Reserves. He ran against Democratic candidate Michael Lumpkin, a former Navy SEAL, for the California 52nd district, previously held by his father, Duncan L. Hunter. (Defense Daily, Oct. 21, 2008) He won and served that district from 2009 to 2013, until it was redistricted to become the 50th district, for which he won the seat and has served since 2013. He was the first combat veteran of either Iraq or Afghanistan to serve as a member of Congress.
During his tenure in the House, Hunter’s districts, which contain parts of San Diego and Riverside counties in southern California, have been home to defense contractor facilities for General Atomics, Honeywell International [HON], and L-3 Communications’ [LLL] Advanced Systems division. Military bases in the San Diego area include the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, Naval Base Coronado, and the Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton, Air Station Miramar, and Point Loma bases.
He has been a longtime supporter of the Coast Guard and various efforts to modernize it. He has pushed to increase the service’s fleet of polar icebreakers, and advocated for the procurement of unmanned systems. (Defense Daily, May 24)
Hunter in 2017 questioned a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) satellite servicing program that he said inappropriately competed with commercial space industry and duplicated much of the technical work funded for a NASA program (Defense Daily, January 25, 2017). DARPA’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program sought to develop a robotic GEO servicing capability, which the agency said was not in development by the commercial sector at the time.
Hunter in 2016 urged the Pentagon to speed up efforts to develop counter-drone capabilities (Defense Daily, Nov. 9, 2016). He wrote a letter to then-Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James stating, it “is my firm belief that we must expedite the development and acquisition of [counter-UAS] technology due to the Islamic State’s use of commercial UAS, as well as the potential for UAS use among other hostile actors.”
He also expressed support for deploying both directed energy and kinetic weapons against drones.
Hunter has also been an advocate for the Silicon Valley software company Palantir during his congressional tenure. In 2016, he supported the firm’s successful lawsuit against the Army, which alleged that the service’s bid selection process excluded commercially available systems – in this case, its commercial data management system – for the next-generation Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS). The company had previously lost a protest to the Government Accountability Office and subsequently took its case to the Court of Federal Claims, and won. (Defense Daily, Oct. 31, 2016)
Hunter had been critical of the Army’s handling of DCGS and was pleased that the request for proposals must now be reissued. Palantir is now competing with Raytheon [RTN], the legacy provider of DCGS, for the first task order (Defense Daily, March 9, 2018).