The House and Senate armed services committees are proceeding with business as usual during the federal government shutdown, though at a somewhat slower pace, trying to arrange for oversight hearings and work on amendments to the defense authorization bill.
No staff members from either committee were furloughed when the government shut down due to a lack of a fiscal year 2014 spending bill, spokesmen from both committees said.
“We are a nation at war, and the committee’s oversight of military operations has not slowed,” House Armed Services Committee (HASC) spokesman John Noonan said Oct. 7. “Traditionally, at this time of year we also conduct oversight in support of House provisions in the [National Defense Authorization Act] and analyze SASC-passed provisions in preparation for conference. That work is also going forward. Committee staff expertise is also critical to supporting many of the pieces of legislation on the floor last week and this week.” The House has passed several pieces of legislation seeking to mitigate the shutdown’s impact on the military, including the Pay Our Military Act that was passed and signed into law, and the Pay Our Guard and Reserve Act that has not yet moved forward.
A SASC spokeswoman said that the committee is making progress preparing to bring its authorization bill, which the full committee passed June 13, to the Senate floor. That work, along with considering potential amendments, required the staff to remain working through the shutdown.
She said that the Defense Department has been slower to respond to requests for information since last week, given that about half of DoD civilians were furloughed for the first week of the shutdown and that congressional and public affairs personnel still remain furloughed. She added that it has also been harder to schedule briefings with DoD personnel during the shutdown, and travel to off-site locations is not allowed until FY ’14 funding is appropriated.
Noonan said that HASC typically deals with uniformed military personnel, who were not subject to furloughs, so much of the committee’s work has continued as planned. However, “we have had some hearings and briefings postponed because of witness availability, and travel has been curtailed. However, our vital oversight is continuing and we are confident that the NDAA will be passed before the end of the year.”