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UCLA Magazine Winter 2003
The Rising
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Winter 2003
The Cardinal of Westwood
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Congressman Lewis and Donald Rumsfeld
House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Lewis confers with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Since 1999, Lewis has chaired the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, managing the largest part of the nation's discretionary budget each year. "I never in my life expected to be in this position," he says. "This is such a significant time in military history; we have really turned the armed forces around in recent years."

At the outset of his chairmanship, Lewis attracted national attention when his subcommittee voted unanimously to cut $1.8 billion from funding to build the first of six of the Air Force's prized F-22 stealth fighters. After a fierce battle, some of the funding was restored, and Lewis says the fight actually helped to improve communication between Congress and the Pentagon.

"I have played a small role in insisting that our defense work take place in a nonpartisan environment," says Lewis. "Our approach led to conflict and some tough discussions, and it has let the military know we are asking some serious questions."

As chair, Lewis was able to increase the annual appropriation for defense for the first time in more than a decade and has overseen annual increases for the past three years. But he is quick to downplay his accomplishments and his position of power in Washington. "After a great week in Washington, I go home to California and I walk across my pool," he jokes. "I still fall in every time."

Grady Bourn '96, who as a student interned in Lewis' Washington office and has for the past three years been a legislative assistant and systems manager, says, "It is no stretch to use the word 'family' when you talk about this staff." He notes that while turnover is high in other Capitol Hill offices, many on Lewis' staff have been with him for 10 to 20 years.

"One of the congressman's big sayings is, 'It's amazing what you can accomplish when you don't worry about who is getting the credit,'" says Bourn. "That really says it all about how he works."

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