The House Armed Services Committee is not as powerful as it used to be, 86 percent of National Journal's National Security Insiders said.
Differences on the committee between big spenders and tea-party advocates on how to rein in defense spending have left the panel rudderless on many issues, another Insider said. "If the committee wants to recover its stature, it ought to dismiss President Obama's proposed FY 2014 defense budget, which unwisely ignores the reality of sequestration, and instead begin now to collaborate with the Defense Department on a sensible way to prune expenditures consistent with sequestration, the law of the land."
Some Insiders pointed to the "emasculation of the chairman" as a key reason the committee lost power, after Newt Gingrich's 1994 Republican revolution led to a shake-up in Republican leadership in the House and imposed term limits on the committee chairmen. "Gingrich crushed much of the way Washington works, to include the committees," another Insider said.
Others pointed to external factors: "A more institutionalized procurement process, along with the rise of the [combatant commands], has decreased [the committee's] power," one Insider said. "The current budget morass and partisanship has eroded whatever governance role was possible," said another.
Fourteen percent disagreed. House Armed Services is one of the few authorizing committees that consistently moves legislation on a bipartisan basis—rare in the current climate, one Insider said. "Defense Appropriations is still where the real action is, since they play with real money, but HASC plays a very important and influential role."
Is the House Armed Services Committee as powerful as it used to be?
- No 86%
- Yes 14%
"Across-the-board cuts reduce any committee's power."
"It's not even close. The committee today suffers badly by comparison. However, this loss of power is cyclical and depends as much on individual leadership as on broader dynamics. There was a time when the chairman was someone to be feared. No more."
"Not since the abolition of earmarks."
"The House Armed Services Committee is even less powerful now than it used to be. Once Ike Skelton vacated the chairmanship, the committee lost some of its bipartisan luster."
"It is simply a reflection of the times per the discussion above. And that the Senate, as the upper house, tends to rule the roost on important decisions, especially as in its advise-and-consent role it approves the president's appointees."
"They have great structural impact but are not as independent as they should be and have lost their somewhat minimal impact on policy."
"It is holding the fort on defense spending and has on several occasions forced DOD to reverse itself."
"[Political scientist] Aaron Wildavsky called the Senate Armed Services Committee 'a sort of real-estate committee dealing with the regional economic consequences of the location of military facilities.' That is the mantle Buck McKeon has carried proudly and unashamedly in the House."
National Security Insiders: Gordon Adams, Charles Allen, Thad Allen, James Bamford, David Barno, Milt Bearden, Peter Bergen, Samuel "Sandy" Berger, David Berteau, Stephen Biddle, Nancy Birdsall, Marion Blakey, Kit Bond, Stuart Bowen, Paula Broadwell, Mike Breen, Mark Brunner, Steven Bucci, Nicholas Burns, Dan Byman, James Jay Carafano, Phillip Carter, Wendy Chamberlin, Michael Chertoff, Frank Cilluffo, James Clad, Richard Clarke, Steve Clemons, Joseph Collins, William Courtney, Lorne Craner, Roger Cressey, Gregory Dahlberg, Robert Danin, Richard Danzig, Daniel Drezner, Mackenzie Eaglen, Paul Eaton, Andrew Exum, William Fallon, Eric Farnsworth, Jacques Gansler, Stephen Ganyard, Daniel Goure, Mike Green, Mark Gunzinger, Jim Harper, Michael Hayden, Michael Herson, Pete Hoekstra, Bruce Hoffman, Paul Hughes, Colin Kahl, Donald Kerrick, Rachel Kleinfeld, Lawrence Korb, David Kramer, Andrew Krepinevich, Charlie Kupchan, W. Patrick Lang, Cedric Leighton, James Lindsay, Justin Logan, Trent Lott, Peter Mansoor, Ronald Marks, Brian McCaffrey, Steven Metz, Franklin Miller, Philip Mudd, John Nagl, Shuja Nawaz, Kevin Nealer, Michael Oates, Thomas Pickering, Paul Pillar, Stephen Rademaker, Marc Raimondi, Celina Realuyo, Bruce Riedel, Barry Rhoads, Marc Rotenberg, Kori Schake, Mark Schneider, John Scofield, Tammy Schultz, Stephen Sestanovich, Sarah Sewall, Matthew Sherman, Jennifer Sims, Constanze Stelzenmüller, Frances Townsend, Mick Trainor, Suzanne Spaulding, Ted Stroup, Tamara Wittes, Dov Zakheim, and Juan Zarate.
This article appears in the June 13, 2013 edition of NJ Daily.