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What Is the House Armed Services Committee?

The House and Senate convene in the U.S. Capital building.
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  • Written By: Nicholas K.
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 16 March 2014
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The House Armed Services Committee is a committee within the U.S. House of Representatives dealing with military spending and oversight. Committee members organize into subcommittees for hearings on military training, housing, research, and other matters of national defense. These subcommittees are responsible for recommending legislation that maintains and improves the efficiency of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Federal oversight of the U.S. Armed Forces was carried out by the Committee on Military Affairs and the Committee on Naval Affairs prior to 1946. The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 combined these two committees into the House Armed Services Committee. This name existed until 1994 when the House changed the name to the Committee on Armed Forces. The terms House Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Armed Forces are used interchangeably by observers of American federal politics.

Members of the majority party in Congress are allowed to select the committee chair as well as a majority of the committee members. This privilege is also extended to selecting the chairperson for each of the House Armed Service Committee’s subcommittees. The minority party fills in the remaining seats on the committee with the ranking member acting as the party’s primary voice on the Armed Services. These subcommittees include Air and Land Forces, Military Personnel, Readiness, Seapower & Expeditionary Forces, Strategic Forces, and Terrorism, Unconventional Threats & Capabilities. Representatives also work on subcommittees for Oversight & Investigations and Defense Acquisition Reform.

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The House Armed Services Committee is the starting point for legislation dealing with personnel, operations, and resources of the Armed Forces. Members conduct regular hearings about pay grade adjustments, military benefits, and advancement processes for all branches of the Armed Forces. This committee handles legislation dealing with the Selective Service Act, which requires American males over 18 years old to register for the now-defunct military draft. Responsibilities of the House Armed Services Committee include assessments of military facilities, bases, and Merchant Marine facilities for battle readiness. The committee also debates legislation to adjust use of oil and mineral reserves operated by the U.S. Department of Navy.

Legislation approved by a majority of the House Armed Services Committee is sent to the full House for a vote. This vote determines whether pending legislation is rejected or sent to the Senate Armed Services Committee for approval. The Senate Armed Services Committee must approve the legislation as passed by the House before the full Senate votes on the bill. Members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees may be asked to develop compromise legislation if both bodies disagree on details of a particular bill.

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