Chair: Jack Reed
Grade for the 117th Congress
2 Investigative Oversight Hearings
66 Policy/Legislative Hearings
105 Total HearingsLast updated: July 29, 2023, 3:03 p.m.
With jurisdiction over the Pentagon’s $700 billion budget and major military facilities in many states, the committee is considered one of the most powerful in the Senate. The committee passes a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the defense bill, every year, one of the few must-pass authorization bills. Besides direct spending on 1.3 million active duty personnel and ongoing military operations, the committee also authorizes procurement spending in the private sector for rockets, planes, ships, tanks and other military equipment. The committee considers about 50,000 nominations a year for civilian and military posts. Most are approved en masse without formal hearings; nonetheless the committee has among the most nomination hearings of any in the Senate. The committee has seven subcommittees: airland, cybersecurity, emerging threats and capabilities, personnel, readiness and management support, seapower, and strategic forces. The committee historically has had a reputation for bipartisanship on most defense matters.
With an annual requirement to produce a massive legislative package, and with the country constantly at war, the committee has maintained one of the Senate's most robust hearing schedules. Hearing activity picked up in the 114th (2015-16) and 115th (2017-18) Congresses when Sen. John McCain (R, Az.) took over from Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan. (The gavel passed to Sen. Jim Inhofe (R, Okla.) toward the end of the 115th following Sen. McCain’s death.) This was due primarily to a surge in hearings for information gathering and policy reviews. In the 116th Congress, however, the committee held just 92 hearings under Chair Inhofe, a significant drop from the 141 hearings held in the 115th Congress. The final grade was adjusted to account for the pandemic-shortened schedule.
The committee holds numerous policy and legislative oversight hearings every year. In the 116th Congress it held 69 of them. The committee also holds a large number of closed hearings, 20 in the 116th Congress, which could involve oversight of secret programs.
Since 2011 the committee held only five investigative oversight hearings through 2020, and none in the 114th Congress. It held two in the 116th Congress, both addressing the problem of inadequate privatized housing conditions for military families.
111th Congress: Carl Levin (D-MI)
112th Congress: Carl Levin (D-MI)
113th Congress: Carl Levin (D-MI)
114th Congress: John McCain (R-AZ)
115th Congress: John McCain (R-AZ) [James Inhofe (R-OK)]
116th Congress: James Inhofe (R-OK)
117th Congress: Jack Reed (D-RI)
We are 100% of the way through the 117th Congress
Senate Committee on Armed Services2 Investigative Oversight Hearings; 42% historical maximum
Number of Hearings
Committee Hearing Performance
* Adjustments have been applied so that committees' grades are not lowered by the constraints on hearings caused by Covid-19 [oversight-index.thelugarcenter.org/covid-19-statement]