WASHINGTON — This year’s House Armed Services Committee will feature more veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than ever before, and also boasts its largest contingent of female veterans crafting defense policy.
Democrats are adding 16 new members to the influential military panel, which in coming weeks will begin work on the annual defense authorization bill that sets the tone for military priorities and spending.
Combined with two new Republican members, that means nearly a third of the 62-member panel will be new this session, a significant amount of turnover for one of the more prominent congressional committees.
However, Chairman Adam Smith, R-Wash., has served on the panel since 1997 and been the Democrats top lawmaker on the committee since 2010. Most of the top Republican and Democratic leadership have served on the committee for almost a decade.
Republicans boast 11 members on the committee who have served in the military, Democrats 10. Of that total group, 11 of the veterans have served in the recent wars, the largest contingent yet for the committee.
They include three newly elected lawmakers: Colorado Democrat Jason Crow, who served with the Army in both Iraq and Afghanistan; Maine Democrat Jared Golden, a Marine Corps veteran who also served in both wars; and Florida Republican Michael Waltz, a former Green Beret who deployed to Afghanistan.
The four female veterans on the committee are all Democrats: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, Rep. Elaine Luria of Virginia and Rep. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey.
The new Democratic faces also include national security specialists who haven't previously served in uniform.
Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., is a former Rhodes Scholar who advised generals David Petraeus and John Allen in Afghanistan and worked as Iraq director for the White House National Security Council beginning in 2013.
Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., is a former CIA analyst who served as an Iraq policy hand at the Pentagon and ascended to acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs from 2015 to 2017.
And party leaders said they wanted to include representatives on the panel with an array of experience beyond military in the Defense Department policy debates.
To that end, New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland is one of the first two Native American women elected to the Congress. Oklahoma Rep. Kendra Horn, who upset former HASC member Republican Steve Russell, handled government affairs for the non-profit Space Foundation. Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., led a non-profit that provided of homes for the homeless.
New House Armed Services Committee members for the 116th Congress
Rep. Gil Cisneros of California
Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado
Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas
Rep. Jared Golden of Maine
Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico
Rep. Katie Hill of California
Rep. Kendra Horn of Oklahoma
Rep. Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania
Rep. Bill Keating of Massachusetts
Rep. Andy Kim of New Jersey
Rep. Elaine Luria of Virginia
Rep. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey
Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan
Rep. Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico
Rep. Lori Trahan of Massachusetts
Rep. Filemon Vela of Texas
Rep. Jack Bergman of Michigan
Rep. Michael Waltz of Florida
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.
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.