Senate Armed Services Makes Leadership Changes

WASHINGTON — The Senate Armed Services Committee is having a big leadership shakeup.

Committee leaders announced Wednesday that five of the seven subcommittees will have new chairmen in the new Congress. 

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., will take over the gavel of the new Cybersecurity subpanel, which will oversee and legislate policies and programs relating to the Defense Department’s cyber forces and capabilities.

Rounds said he hopes to clarify the Defense Department’s role in responding to and deterring attacks on civilian critical infrastructure, a topic he filed legislation on last year.

“As recent events have shown, the US is not immune to a cyber-attack from hostile foreign actors,” Rounds said in a statement. “Even more alarming, our adversaries have determined that the reward outweighs the risk of launching a cyber-attack against our nation.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, who SASC Chair John McCain, R-Ariz., initially named to lead Cybersecurity, was not named to chair any SASC subpanels. He is handing the Military Personnel gavel to Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C.

Graham chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs as well as the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, and he told reporters Tuesday he opted not to seek a waiver he would have needed to chair a third subcommittee. 

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., hands the Emerging Threats and Capabilities gavel to Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa. Fischer will chair the Strategic Forces subcommittee. Strategic Forces covers nuclear  forces, non-proliferation programs, space programs, nuclear-weapons activities at the Department of Energy, ballistic missile defense—and Nebraska-based US Strategic Command.

“There is broad bipartisan consensus in Congress that America needs now, more than any other time since the Cold War, a nuclear deterrent that is modern and effective,” Fischer said. “I look forward to ensuring this goal is achieved.”

Ernst, the first female veteran to serve in the Senate, said the US must “utilize our international partnerships and allies as we confront” challenges like the Islamic State group, and “an aggressive Russia and Iran.”

Ernst said she hopes to address the Islamic State group’s activities in Southeast Asia.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., takes over Readiness and Management Support — which is charged with military weapons modernization and development — from former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., who lost reelection.

“It’s the big committee, and at a time when we have depleted our military, now is the time to become really aggressive and re-prioritize America’s needs,” Inhofe told Defense News last week. “We’re going to have to go ahead and do it because we have really starved modernization too much.”

AirLand chair Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Seapower chair Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., will stay in place.


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