Senate Committee on Armed Services

Chair: James Inhofe

B

Projected Grade for the 116th Congress*

* 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]

1 Investigative Oversight Hearings

65 Policy/Legislative Hearings

85 Total Hearings

Last updated: July 4, 2020, 10:41 a.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 115th Congress, the committee held 141 hearings, second only to the 146 it held in the 114th Congress.

The committee holds numerous policy and legislative oversight hearings every year. In the 115th Congress it held 94 of them, the second highest figure for the 10-year period. The committee also holds a large number of closed hearings, 22 in the 115th Congress, which could involve oversight of secret programs.

Since 2011 the committee held only four investigative oversight hearings through 2018, and none in the 114th Congress. It held two in the 115th Congress, both in response to well-publicized incidents. The first, in March of 2017, looked into the controversy surrounding the 30,000-member “Marines United” Facebook group that shared nude pictures of female military personnel and civilians, as well as degrading sexual comments and threats. The second, in September, 2017, looked into two fatal naval collisions where American destroyers struck large merchant vessels in the western Pacific, killing a total of 17 sailors; the grounding of another ship, a guided missile cruiser, on the shoals outside a U.S. naval base in Japan; and the collision of another guided missile cruiser with a small Korean fishing boat. (One of the destroyers involved was named after Chair McCain’s father and grandfather.)


Chairs

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)


Current Congress

We are 82% of the way through the 116th Congress

Senate Committee on Armed Services

1 Investigative Oversight Hearings; 23% historical maximum
65 Policy/Legislative Hearings; 71% historical maximum
85 Total Hearings; 67% historical maximum

Committee History

Number of Hearings
Committee Hearing Performance
Investigative/Oversight Policy/Legislative Total Hearings Score Grade
111th Congress 5 90 117 93% A
112th Congress 5 76 97 80% B-
113th Congress 1 91 109 84% B
114th Congress 0 105 146 100% A
115th Congress 2 94 141 96% A
116th Congress* 1 65 85 87% B
Historical average 2.3 86.8 115.8

* 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]

Number of Hearings

--- Historical Average

Hearings held by the
Senate Committee on Armed Services

Date Hearing Title Committee Category