House Armed Services chairman restructures committee

In a move Republicans hope will pave the way for more efficient and effective oversight of the Pentagon and the military services, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., on Monday announced changes to the jurisdictions of many of its seven subcommittees.

Realigning the Armed Services subcommittees has become tradition for the panel each time the chairman's gavel switches hands. When Democrats took control of the House in 2007, then-chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., created a seventh subcommittee for oversight and investigations and tweaked the other subcommittees' responsibilities.

At the time, Skelton, who lost reelection in November, wanted to align each subcommittee's jurisdiction closer to the individual military services' budgets and programs. Skelton's efforts undid many of the changes imposed by his Republican predecessor, former Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who organized the subcommittees to focus on different military missions.

The changes made by McKeon appear to be a return to Hunter's mission-based subcommittee organizations.

The biggest changes appear to be within the Air and Land Forces Subcommittee and the Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee, which have been renamed Tactical Air and Land Forces and Seapower and Projection Forces to reflect their new responsibilities.

The Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee will continue to oversee most Army and Air Force acquisition programs and now will also assume oversight of all Marine Corps programs. Notable exceptions, however, are the Marine Corps' amphibious assault vehicle programs, as well as strategic missiles, space, lift programs, special operations, science and technology programs, and information technology accounts, which will fall under the other subcommittee's jurisdictions.

The panel will also be responsible for Navy and Marine Corps aviation programs, which had fallen under the purview of the Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee during the last two congresses.

The renamed Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee will continue to be responsible for other Navy acquisition programs and the Marines' amphibious assault vehicle programs. Defense Secretary Robert Gates earlier this month canceled the Marine Corps' projected $15 billion Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program, but the service intends to move forward on a replacement ship-to-shore vehicle "as soon as possible," Commandant Gen. James Amos said last week.

While it lost many Marine Corps programs and naval aviation efforts, the Seapower panel has picked up oversight of several high-profile programs that had once been under the jurisdiction of the Air and Land Forces Subcommittee. These include deep-strike bombers, a major program that the Air Force is still defining, as well as airlift programs and the Air Force tanker program.

The Air Force expects to award a much anticipated contract for the tanker program, which is estimated at around $40 billion, in the next several weeks to either Boeing Co. or EADS North America, making the Seapower panel a major player in one of the military's largest and most contentious programs.

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