The 114th Congress started to take shape last week, with House lawmakers electing new committee chiefs and senators signaling which panel leadership posts they will take. Here’s a rundown of some key moves, and what each means for the defense sector.
Face: Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas
Place: HASC chairman-elect. Thornberry, in a move expected by just about everyone on the south side of the Capitol, was put into the post last week by his Republican mates. Thornberry is a longtime House Armed Services Committee (HASC) and Intelligence Committee member, and brings a wealth of experience to the position. “Thornberry has had a vision for a long time about what he wants this committee to do,” one defense lobbyist said. “Remember, he ran for chairman last time.”
Outlook: Expect Thornberry to focus on issues “across the board,” the lobbyist said, from acquisition reform to the war on the Islamic State group to C4ISR to intelligence issues. Thornberry told reporters on Nov. 19 he wants to set the panel’s agenda with a two-year focus in mind. Several sources expect Thornberry to aggressively attempt to leave a mark with a bold agenda. But Benjamin Freeman of Third Way says he doesn’t “think Thornberry will be a big change” because “they’ve done little to rein in wasteful spending at the Department of Defense.”
Face: Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.
Place: Expected SASC ranking member. Reed briefly mulled two committees that oversee sectors important to Rhode Island’s economy — the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and the Senate Banking Committee. Ultimately, the veteran lawmaker chose the former, a move that will see him work with the likely new chairman, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in crafting the annual Pentagon policy bill.
Outlook: The SASC is important to Reed and the Ocean State because of its shipbuilding presence. To that end, Reed has been the Seapower subcommittee chairman. Notably, it won’t be the first time Reed and McCain have worked closely; McCain is the current ranking member of the same subcommittee.