The commander in chief isn't the only new face in Washington that troops and veterans should be keeping an eye on.

The new session of Congress that started earlier this month brought with it a host of familiar lawmakers in new leadership roles who could have profound effects on military and veterans policy.

Here's a look at some of the new assignments for key congressional figures whose moves could be as important as Trump's for defense advocates in the months to come:

Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas  new chairwoman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee.

The 72-year-old became the leader of the House's most important defense funding panel after a brief leadership fight and will be a key figure in Republican plans for a military build-up in years to come. She has already promised to "invest in our military and ensure it is stronger than ever."

Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn.  new chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee.

Roe, a 71-year-old former Army doctor who spent 31 years working as an obstetrics and gynecology specialist, has promised to bring his years of medical knowledge to Trump's proposed overhaul of VA services. It's the first chairmanship change in the committee in six years, and how Roe interacts with Trump's pick for VA Secretary — Dr. David Shulkin — could dictate the success of those efforts.

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C.

new chairman of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee.

The 56-year-old longtime member of the Armed Services and Veterans Affairs committee will take over the Senate’s most pressing military personnel issues, including compensation for troops, integration of women into combat roles and health care reforms for active-duty personnel and their families.

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo.

new chairman of the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee.

Like Tillis, the 61-year-old has been a fixture on his chamber’s Armed Services and Veterans Affairs panels. But Coffman also brings experience as an Army and Marine Corps veteran to his role overseeing personnel decisions, and will be leaned on by Republican leaders to serve as a prominent voice on those issues.

Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va.

new chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee.

Wittman takes over the gavel from another Virginia lawmaker — former Rep. Randy Forbes — and will immediately be thrust into the debate over shipbuilding and fleet size in Trump’s promised military plus-up. The 57-year-old is entering his tenth year in Congress and has steadily grown in influence on the defense panel.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa

new chairwoman of the Senate Armed Services Emerging Threats Subcommittee.

The 46-year-old Iraq War veteran has already emerged as a prominent voice for Senate conservatives on defense issues, and her promotion to a leadership role on the Armed Services committee will likely elevate her status even further.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.

chairman of the Senate Appropriations Military Construction and Veterans Affairs subcommittee.

Moran, a fixture on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, will take over the Senate’s stewardship of the VA budget from former Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk. That makes the 62-year-old a major player in Trump’s promised VA reform efforts, especially if those changes cost more money.

Rep. Tim Walz., D-Minn.

new ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Walz, a 52-year-old former Army National Guard sergeant major, is the highest-ranking enlisted service member ever in Congress and will serve as one of the Democrats' main opposition voices to Trump’s plans to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs. But he also has a close working relationship with committee chairman Roe, and has worked with Republicans on reform efforts in recent years.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.

new ranking member of Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

The 60-year-old Democrat previously served as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee dealing with the VA budget and now takes over as the chamber’s top Democrat on veterans issues. He has been a frequent critic of efforts to "privatize" the department, and will serve as a key roadblock for any VA changes from the White House.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii

new ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Military Construction and Veterans Affairs subcommittee.

The former Hawaii lieutenant governor just won re-election to the Senate and will be tasked with countering Trump’s VA plans on the funding side. The 44-year-old also sits on the appropriations’ committee’s defense panel.

Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

In Other News
Load More