HASC to examine DoD efficiency push

Thursday - 1/20/2011, 7:15pm EST

Jared Serbu, Reporter, Federal News Radio

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By Jared Serbu
Reporter
Federal News Radio

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), the new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee told his members to get ready for a busy year as the panel met Thursday to adopt new rules, an oversight plan and security procedures for the new Congress.

Although their first meeting dealt primarily with housekeeping matters, the committee will get down to issues next week. McKeon has scheduled a classified briefing on combat operations for Tuesday. Then, on Wednesday, the committee will hold an oversight hearing on Defense Secretary Robert Gates' budget efficiency initiative. It was unclear whether Gates himself would testify at the hearing. A committee spokesman said staff was still in talks with DoD to determine the witness lineup.

McKeon has already signaled his displeasure with some of the changes Gates has announced, particularly the plan to decrease the permanent size of the Army and the Marine Corps.

"I'm not happy," he said in statement following Gates' announcement. "These cuts are being made without any commitment to restore modest future growth, which is the only way to prevent deep reductions in force structure that will leave our military less capable and less ready to fight. This is a dramatic shift for a nation at war and a dangerous signal from the Commander in Chief."

The oversight plan adopted Thursday says the committee as a whole finds the proposed cuts "deeply troubling," and promises close scrutiny of any proposal involving manpower reductions.

The committee's oversight plan also promises to review changes in the structure of the office of the Secretary of Defense, as well as DoD's progress on implementing the Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness plan. The committee's plan states Gates' efficiency effort lacks credibility if the department cannot produce audit-ready financial statements.

The committee updated its rules to mirror the broader House rules on transparency, such as making bills and other documents publicly available prior to hearings. The new rules also alter the names and shuffle the jurisdictions of a few subcommittees. The intention is to have the panels oversee DoD missions as opposed to individual armed services.

The Subcommittee on Air and Land Forces is now the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, chaired by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.). It will have jurisdiction over Army, Air Force and Marine Corps acquisition programs, except for Marine amphibious assault vehicle programs, space, strategic lift, strategic missiles, long-range strike and information technology. The panel will also inherit all tactical aviation programs across all the armed services. The Seapower and Expeditionary Forces subcommittee will become the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces. It and its chairman, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) will take on Navy acquisition programs, Marines amphibious assault, seaborne unmanned aerial strike and deep strike bombers, and strategic lift programs.

The Terrorism and Unconventional Threats and Capabilities subcommittee becomes the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities. Its jurisdiction remains essentially unchanged - but it will oversee all science and technology programs, rather than only Defense Advanced Research Programs Agency activities. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Tx.) is the panel's new chairman.

McKeon's office released a full list of the new subcommittees and their members on Thursday afternoon.

As the committee implements its oversight plan, both McKeon and ranking Democrat Adam Smith (D-Wash.) are promising they will do their work free from party politics.

"This is probably the most bipartisan committee in Congress," Smith said Thursday. "Without question there will be things we disagree on, but the overwhelming majority of the time we will be working together to help the men and women who are serving in our armed forces."

In that spirit, McKeon and Smith are planning to take road trips together over the coming year to visit military bases in one another's' districts.

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