Outlook in the House

With the change in majority, Buck McKeon (R-CA) will replace Ike Skelton (D-MO) as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Most of the remaining Republicans on the Committee are safe bets to retain their membership and will take their new positions on their subcommittees. On the Democratic side, the top four ranking Members, including Chairman Skelton, lost their bid for re-election. Of the remaining Democrats, as of now, eight lost their seats to Republicans, and Joe Sestak (D-PA) ran for a Senate seat (losing to Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania) and will not be returning. There are only two changes on the Republican side where both Members sought other offices. With the Democrats in the minority, they will lose 14 to 16 seats, creating a scramble for the remaining Members to keep their slots on the Armed Services Committee.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on defense shouldn't look too different except for who is in the majority. Ranking Member Young will become the Chairman, a position he is familiar with having served as the Chairman more than once. Two Democrats lost their seats, and will probably not be replaced due to the ratios. There will probably be six new slots added on the majority side. The defense community expects to see little change in the way business is done in this arena, since most Members have worked together in both majority and minority status. There will be some new Members added in the case of a Republican majority and Members are jockeying for the coveted seats on this panel.

Outlook in the Senate

Nearly half the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee could be on the way out because of retirements or electoral defeats. Republicans are losing four of the current eight Members due to three retirements and Senator Brownback's successful run for Governor of Kansas. Turnover of this magnitude in one election cycle is virtually unheard of for such a powerful subcommittee. Two of the panel’s 11 Democratic members are leaving. With the GOP additions, there should be at least one more Member added to the subcommittee.

Regardless of who sits on the Senate panel in the next Congress, it may be in for a change in tone and approach. With the national mood opposed to federal spending and earmarks, Senate appropriators could face growing pressure to rein in Member-directed spending, as House appropriators have, and reduce Pentagon spending overall. In such a climate, some suggest that service on the Defense spending panel could become less attractive to new Senators.

Nonetheless, appropriators on the panel will continue to bring home funding for projects of local interest that are not requested by the Pentagon. The appropriators are all about securing dollars for their states.

The Republicans on the defense committees have already shown their hand by stating that they will fully fund and support the Afghanistan war effort, and the Washington parlor game is trying to determine if that means the timelines identified by the Administration are less firm now that a more "hawkish" Congress is in place.