There’s been a lot of talk nationwide about what might happen if Democrats take over the House, which is looking increasingly likely. The latest estimates from FiveThirtyEight predict that Democrats have an 85 percent chance to take back the House. Here’s what could happen:
Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) is in position to take over as the Committee’s Chairman if the Democrats win the House.
In recent months, Smith has given some hints as for what the DoD and wider defense industry might expect under his leadership—reduced defense budgets, more Pentagon oversight, and a smaller nuclear arsenal, among other things.
As we previously reported in September, Smith said the $716 billion top-line budget number that was approved for the DoD this year will “certainly not be there in the future,” adding that “We are not in the fiscal position to have the size of the defense budget a lot of people envision.”
Instead, Smith said, Congressional budgets need to prioritize other non-defense related domestic issues.
“The question is how can we within a reasonable budget and looking at all the priorities … we got debt, we got a deficit, we’ve got infrastructure problems, we’ve got healthcare, education, there’s a whole lot that is necessary to make our country safe, secure, and prosperous and you have to look at it within the entire picture,” he said.
Smith also said he would focus more on preparing the military for the most pressing threats to national security, bolster alliances and partnerships, advocate for non defense-led policies that can avoid war, and cut funding for nuclear weapons (especially low-yield nuclear weapons, which President Trump has endorsed).
Smith also said that under his leadership the House Armed Services Committee would step up its role in oversight on other issues: evaluating whether the Space Force should be its own department or a sub-Corps under the Air Force, the deployment of US forces abroad (in places like Africa), support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, and the future of LGBTQ servicemembers.
At the subcommittee levels, there will also be several changes and uncertainties.
Subcommittees on Readiness and Tactical Air and Land Forces
The Ranking Member for the Subcommittee on Readiness Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam) lost in her primary and the Ranking Member for the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces Niki Tsongas (D-MA) retired creating a vacuum for another Democrat to take the helm and set their own priorities for the subcommittees after the midterm.
Subcommittees on Military Personnel and Oversight and Investigations
Similarly, not much is known about what Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) may prioritize as the head of the Subcommittee on Military Personnel or Congressman Seth Moulton for the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Speier has focused most of her work in the subcommittee on curbing sexual assault and violence within the military, but as Chairman she will also have to take on larger issues like the Veterans Affairs and healthcare. Moulton hasn’t really done much in his short tenure, but as an up-and-coming Democrat, he may use his position to up his profile taking a more activist role in his sophomore term with the Subcommittee.
Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities
Congressman James Langevin (D-RI) would be in place to become the Chairman. He’s been a champion of cybersecurity funding and legislation and the next-generation ballistic missile submarine (which would provide jobs in his home district). He has also advocated for legislation that would require the Pentagon to notify Congress about every lethal or caption operation outside of Afghanistan, which nests well with Smith’s desire to reign in the autonomy that President Trump has given the Pentagon.
Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces
Congressman Joe Courtney (D-CT), as the subcommittee Ranking Member, has supported the Navy’s controversial plan to field 355 ships, a top priority of the SASC Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and advocated for plans to rejuvenate the submarine industrial base.
Subcommittee on Strategic Forces
Congressman Jim Cooper (D-TN) has been a bipartisan advocate of a Space Force for years, long before President Trump ever began touting it, he claims, although his proposal with the Subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) was for a Space Corps that would be housed under the Air Force. Smith has maintained that the committee should closely evaluate whether the Space Force should be a fully-independent branch and other Democrats see it as an opportunity to oppose the President. Cooper has also been an advocate for nuclear deterrence, but didn’t address the topic of low-yield in last year’s NDAA, despite calls by the White House for more low-yield nuclear weapons and strong opposition from Smith and Democratic leadership.
There remain lots of questions and uncertainties that remain ahead of the midterm election.
It’s also increasingly likely that the Republicans maintain control of the Senate and consequently the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), creating opportunity for inter-chamber clashes as Smith and SASC Chairman Inhofe (R-OK) pursue mostly typical partisan priorities.
The midterms will take place on Tuesday, November 6.