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The Committee on Armed Services is also charged to "study and review, on a comprehensive basis, matters relating to the common defense policy of the United States, and report thereon from time to time." In addition to this general authority, the Committee has specific responsibility for the review of presidential appointments to the Department of Defense.
In the discharge of its responsibilities, the Committee exercises four basic powers: the power to authorize appropriations, to call or subpoena witnesses and hold hearings, to conduct investigations, and to recommend statutory nominations to the Senate.
During the expansion in jurisdiction from 1960 to 1974, the Armed Services Committee continued to organize ad hoc subcommittees oriented toward specific issues and legislation. (The Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee remained the only formally constituted one.) This dynamic period witnessed Committee consideration of the so-called Tonkin Gulf Resolution, the war in Vietnam, and the emerging issues of arms control. Membership increased from 13 Senators in 1947 to 18 in 1967, but by 1973 had dropped back to 15. In the 99th Congress, committee membership grew to an all-time high with 19 members.
In 1975, the Committee reorganized itself, eliminating many of the temporary ad hoc subcommittees and creating a more formal structure to cope with the larger volume of legislation now being considered on a regular basis. The Committee established the following subcommittees: Intelligence, Preparedness Investigating, National Stockpile and Naval Petroleum Reserves, Military Construction, Arms Control, Tactical Air Power, Research and Development, General Legislation, and Manpower and Personnel.
Between 1975 and 1981, the Committee refined its organization further, reducing the number of permanent subcommittees from nine to six. The most significant change in recent years occurred in 1981 when the Committee reoriented several subcommittees from oversight of appropriation accounts to oversight of certain mission areas. Six subcommittees were created. The Strategic and Theater Nuclear Forces, Sea Power and Force Projection, and Tactical Warfare Subcommittees were given oversight of mission areas, though in practice that oversight was limited to procurement and research and development appropriations. The Manpower and Personnel and Military Construction Subcommittees continued to exercise oversight along the line of appropriation accounts, while the Preparedness Subcommittee had oversight of the operation and maintenance (O&M) appropriation, elements of procurement accounts dealing with munitions, and the overall "readiness“ of the military forces.
With the start of the 99th Congress in 1985, the Senate directed that the Committee may have no more than six subcommittees. Because the Committee had already planned to create a new Subcommittee on Defense Acquisition Policy, it complied with the Senate's directive by disestablishing the Tactical Warfare Subcommittee. The full committee assumed the responsibilities of the Tactical Warfare Subcommittee, with no redistribution of jurisdiction to the other subcommittees.
C. KEY TRENDS
Four key trends characterize the evolution of congressional review and oversight of national security policy in recent years.
1. Erosion of National Consensus on Defense and Foreign Policy
United States security policy following World War II was informed by a broad consensus over the nature of U.S. interests and the threat posed to those interests by the Soviet Union. That consensus led to an unprecedented shift in defense policy. Unlike the period after World War I, the United States chose to enter into binding military alliances, to maintain a large peacetime military establishment, and to support extensive overseas deployments in order to protect its national interests.
That consensus, forged by 1947, prevailed through the 1950's and well into the 1960's. By the second half of the 1960's, however, there were significant signs of erosion. Numerous factors contributed to this erosion. The rift between the Soviet Union and China removed the specter of a communist monolith and presented new opportunities for containing the Soviet Union politically rather than just militarily. The war in Vietnam introduced fresh tensions among NATO allies and divided the United States. Some experts argue that by the middle of the 1970's the United States had tired of its role as a world leader and that the erosion of consensus merely represented a reemergence of American isolationism and a traditional ambivalence toward the military in American society. Yet others argue that American leaders failed to establish clear strategic goals in the increasingly complex and interdependent international political and economic climate of the 1970's.
Irrespective of the causes, during the second half of the 1970's, following the Vietnam war, much of the national security consensus collapsed. To the extent that basic concepts of national interests and threats to those interests were no longer uniformly accepted and shared among the American leadership, a psychological and physical retrenchment of the U.S. defense establishment followed. The erosion of the post-World War II consensus undermined the acceptance and support of long-term requirements for defense.
The decline of U.S. military capabilities during the 1970's was dramatic. By 1980 the American public judged that this trend had proceeded too far and supported the rebuilding of U.S. military capabilities. Yet while the pattern of physical retrenchment was reversed in the early 1980's, the post-World War II security consensus has not necessarily returned. Fundamental national security questions remain unanswered. • What is the appropriate balance between nuclear and conven
tional capabilities in providing for national security? • Can NATO meet the requirements of defending Western
Europe? o Do the non-U.S. NATO allies bear a fair share of the NATO
security burden? o What emphasis should be placed upon conflict with the Soviet
Union versus lesser contingencies? o Should and can the United States assume the burden of de
fending Western interests in the Persian Gulf region?
• Does the United States have the requirement for and capabil
ity of supporting a three-ocean Navy? o Is the assessment of our national interests in balance with the
level of resources likely to be devoted to protecting those inter
ests? These questions are widely debated today. There is no national consensus on the answers to these questions. Without agreement to the answers to these questions, the broad objectives of the defense program remain obscured, and the annual defense debate remains contentious.
2. Emergence of Annual Defense Authorizations
During the past 25 years, the Congress has gradually but consistently expanded the requirement that portions of the defense budget be authorized for appropriation. The requirement for antecedent authorization was not new in 1959. Indeed, separate authorizing and appropriating activities are as old as the Congress.
The original legislators clearly saw the need for separating the authorizing (then called “legislating”) function from the appropriating function. In 1789 Congress first established the new Department of War, specifying its offices and responsibilities. Subsequently it passed an appropriation for the Department. This separation of substantive legislation from appropriations existed informally through the early years of the Republic. However, in 1837 the House of Representatives, responding to the growing disregard for the informal rules separating authorizations
from appropriations, explicitly adopted a rule carried on to this day (currently as Rule XXI, Clause 2) prohibiting consideration of appropriations bills unless preceded by legislation authorizing the expenditure. The Senate followed suit in 1850, adopting the antecedent of current Rule XVI. Both the House and Senate reinforced this procedural separation by referring the two types of legislation to different committees. (Allen Schick, "The Many Faces of Congressional Budgeting,” prepared for The Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, January 1984, pages 3-7)
Congress alternately shifted power back and forth between authorizing and appropriating committees in response to national crises through the second half of the 1800's and into the 1900's. When external circumstances threatened the United States (e.g., World War I), the authorizing committees rose in power over the appropriations committees. When internal problems predominated (concern over the deficits following World War I, for example), Congress elevated the power of the appropriations committees to restrain spending. ("The Many Faces of Congressional Budgeting",
În 1957 and 1958, following the launch of “Sputnik,” the country perceived another crisis, this time in its competition with the Soviet Union. The Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, under the direction of then Senator Lyndon Johnson, conducted an extensive inquiry into the state of U.S. nuclear defenses and the so-called "missile gap." It was in this context that the Senate began the march toward annual authorizations for virtually the entire defense budget.
Prior to 1959, the Armed Services Committees authorized an activity or program on a permanent basis, and let the Appropriations Committees fund it annually. This changed in 1959 with the adoption of the requirement for annual authorizations for procurement of aircraft, missiles, and naval vessels. Since that time much of the remainder of the defense budget has been brought under the requirement for annual authorizations, as noted in the following chronology:
In 1962 (Public Law 87-436), to require the authorization of appropriations for research, development, test or evaluation associated with aircraft, missiles, and naval vessels;
In 1963 (Public Law 88–174), to require the authorization of appropriations for the procurement of tracked combat vehicles;
In 1967 (Public Law 90-168), to require the annual authorization of the personnel strengths of each of the Selected Reserves;
In 1969 (Public Law 91-121), to require the authorization of appropriations for the procurement of other weapons;
In 1970 (Public Law 91-441), to require the authorization of appropriations for the procurement of torpedoes and related support equipment and to require annual authorization of the active duty personnel strengths of each component of the Armed Forces;
In 1973 (Public Law 92-436), to require the annual authorization of the average military training student loads of each component of the Armed Forces;
In 1973 (Public Law 93–155), to require the annual authorization of civilian end-strengths;
In 1975 (Public Law 94-106), to require the annual authorization of military construction of ammunition facilities;
In 1977 (Public Law 95–91), to provide the Committee with jurisdiction over the national defense programs of the Department of Energy;
In 1980 (Public Law 96-342), to require the annual authorization of funds for operation and maintenance of the Department of Defense and all its components;
In 1982 (Public Law 97-86), to require the annual authorization of appropriations of funds for the procurement of ammunition and so-called "other" procurement; and
In 1983 (Public Law 98-94), to require the annual authorization of appropriations for working-capital funds. Commentators disagree over the fundamental causes that produced the first annual authorization requirement in 1959. Some argue that annual authorizations reflect the continuing struggle between authorizing and appropriating committees for power. John Gist argues that Section 412(b) requiring annual authorizations in procurement "was clearly an attempt to gain leverage for the armed services committees over policy decisions, and thus enhance their power and status vis-a-vis the defense appropriations subcommittees in making military policy.” (““The Impact of Annual Authorizations on Military Appropriations in the U.S. Congress," Legislative Studies Quarterly, August 1981, page 440) Robert Art is more explicit: “Annual authorizations began because the Armed Services Committees reasoned that they had lost control over the defense budget to the Appropriations Committees.” (“Congress and the Defense Budget: Improving the Process," unpublished paper, June 1983, page 31) Schick explains the development of annual authorizations in terms of Congress's desire to force changes in policy on a reluctant Administration. Yet others see the annual authorization requirement as part of a seamless fabric of bureaucratic politics: “The intent of annual authorizations requirements was to reduce the area of discretionary power of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and to strengthen legislative control of programs. Congress, like the services, appeared to feel threatened by the growing power of OSD over all aspects of defense policy.” (William A. Lucas and Raymond H. Dawson, The Organizational Politics of Defense, page 120)
Irrespective of the original causes, other factors fuel the utility of annual authorizations today. Annual authorizations have substantially expanded the power of the Armed Services Committee to exercise control over defense policy. Prior to 1959 the Committee largely confined its activities to manpower issues, military construction, and oversight of narrowly defined issues. (For example, "Purchase of Tanks by the Department of the Army During Fiscal Year 1956" or "Proposed Closing of Certain Government Owned Ordnance Plants" were typical of committee hearings and prints of that period.) Since then the Armed Services Committees have broadened the scope and deepened the level of oversight detail in virtually all aspects of defense policy, all through the mechanism of annual authorizations. Annual authorization bills offer expanded opportunities to influence and constrain DoD policy and resource allocation decisions. Constituents who have failed to "win" their case within DoD actively lobby Congress to make their case one last time.
In summary, annual authorizations have become a powerful trend because they reflect fundamental political forces: the struggle for power between committees in Congress, the struggle for power by the Congress over the Executive, the struggle for power by individual members of Congress on behalf of constituents.
3. Adoption of New Congressional Budgeting Procedure
In 1974 Congress established a new congressional budgeting procedure by passing the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (Public Law 93-344). This new budget process was designed to augment the existing two-stage process of authorizations and appropriations, rather than supplant either of the stages.
This new process incorporated the following general schedule of key events. The President submits the budget in January. The various committees of the Congress hold broad overview hearings and recommend to the respective budget committees by March 15 the spending those committees believe is justified in functional areas under their jurisdiction. By April 15 the budget committees must report a First Concurrent Resolution on the budget to their respective Houses. The resolution establishes revenue and spending targets for the budget in the aggregate, and specifies spending targets