President Obama on Tuesday named Republican Rep. John McHugh as Army secretary despite legislation co-sponsored by McHugh that would set rigorous standards on the administration before it could bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States.
McHugh, of New York, is the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. His selection is significant as the president has again picked a leading Republican with impeccable national security credentials for a key military post.
Calling him a "champion of our men and women in uniform," Obama said McHugh was uniquely qualified for the Army post.
"John is committed to keeping America's Army the best trained, the best equipped, the best led land force the world has ever seen," Obama said.
McHugh said Tuesday he was "enormously moved" and "deeply proud," thanking Obama for the opportunity.
However, McHugh joined Republicans last month to co-sponsor the Keep Terrorists Out of America Act, which would "ensure governors and state legislatures pre-approve the transfer or release of detainees into their respective states and require the administration to meet several certification standards before any detainee held at the Guantanamo detention facility could enter the United States."
"For all the good intentions the current administration's efforts may have, the fact of the matter is the American people are still at risk. The political calendar in the United States did not change the realities on the ground around the world," McHugh said at the time in a written statement.
McHugh did say he agreed with those who think the Bush administration's terrorist detention policies had several shortcomings, but added that they provided "a process by which the American people were placed beyond the deadly reach of some of the most dangerous terrorists that have ever walked the face of the earth."
"That shield is gone now," McHugh said. "What it has been replaced by is uncertainty and doubt."
Obama seemed to address such criticism Tuesday.
"(McHugh) hasn't agreed with every decision my administration has made, but he brings patriotism and a pragmatism that has won him respect on both sides of the aisle," Obama said.
McHugh said Tuesday that Republicans and Democrats can set aside differences for the good of America's military men and women.
The New York congressman said last month that his legislation would not preclude the eventual closing of Guantanamo but ensures that "any detainees transferred or released into their states -- more importantly into their neighborhoods -- have been subject to thorough, public process and careful review that does not now exist."
First elected in 1980, McHugh represents a large rural area of upstate New York that borders Canada. The district includes Ft. Drum. McHugh would be tapped to succeed Pete Geren, who has held the post since July 2007.
FOX News' Chad Pergram and Major Garrett contributed to this report.