Big changes on horizon for defense panels

The Senate Armed Services Committee also lost five members, four through retirement and one who lost reelection Tuesday. The panel’s ranking member could be changing, too, as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is term-limited.

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The Senate Appropriations Defense panel has only one member leaving office, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), who is retiring.

A closer look at each committee:

House Armed Services

Tactical Air and Land subcommittee Chairman Roscoe Bartlett’s (R-Md.) loss Tuesday brought the total number of subcommittee heads leaving the Armed Services Committee to three, after that panel’s ranking member, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), lost in a primary and Seapower Chairman Todd Akin (R-Mo.) mounted an unsuccessful Senate bid.

The departures will spark a game of musical chairs in the committee for top spots on the sub-panels, with several other chairmen looking to lead more powerful subcommittees and others looking to fill those empty seats.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), whose father was chairman of the full committee, is most frequently mentioned as a potential member to move into leadership, although sources say that’s not a done deal yet.

Defense insiders say subcommittee Chairmen Randy Forbes (R-Va.), Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.) might all eye moves as the committee shakes out.

The number of full-committee members who will not be back next year totals at least nine, with another three members in races that have yet to be called.

Among the notable potential losses is Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.). The outspoken Tea Party freshman is currently trailing challenger Patrick Murphy (D) by about 2,500 votes in a race that’s yet to be called.

House Appropriations Defense

The Defense sub-panel will see a lot of turnover in 2013, with Dicks and two other Democrats leaving, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) retiring and Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) potentially stepping down as chairman.

Young requested a waiver to lead the committee in the 112th Congress after being term-limited. He has not said if he will try to do so again, and leadership has not indicated if the 21-term lawmaker would receive another waiver. Defense observers say if that does not happen, Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) and Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) are likely to try and succeed Young.

On the Democratic side, Visclosky and Moran are seen as most likely to take over for Dicks, as Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) is vying for the full committee’s top Democratic spot.

If she doesn’t wind up getting it — particularly if someone from leadership returns to the committee — the possibility remains that she could leapfrog the other Democrats in seniority on the Defense panel, defense insiders say.

Senate Armed Services

The Senate Armed Services panel will see four members depart. Three Democrats will leave through retirement: Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Jim Webb (D-Va.). A fourth, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), lost his reelection bid to Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Tuesday.

But perhaps the biggest change in the committee will be felt with the looming departure of McCain as ranking member. The vocal critic of President Obama is term-limited, with Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) next in line to replace him.

McCain could request a waiver to remain the committee’s ranking member, but he’s made no indication yet that he would do so.

One new face that’s likely to join the committee is Sen.-elect Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who will replace Webb after defeating former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) in the military-heavy state.

Senate Appropriations Defense

This panel is seeing the least change of the four defense committees on election night, as only Hutchison is departing.

There could be movement, however, if senators eye open spots on other Appropriations subcommittees.