New House Armed Services panel gavels in

The newly reconstituted House Armed Services Committee came to order for the first time on Wednesday, including 15 new members, many of whom have significant military backgrounds.

“We’ve got a lot of work cut out for us. The world is a complex and dangerous place but I am very optimistic the members of this committee are going to rise to meet our responsibility this year,” new panel Chairman Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryOvernight Defense: Iran worries dominate foreign policy talk | Pentagon reportedly to send WH plans for 10K troops in Mideast | Democrats warn Trump may push through Saudi arms sale | Lawmakers blast new Pentagon policy on sharing info Shanahan orders new restrictions on sharing of military operations with Congress: report Overnight Defense: Congressional leaders receive classified briefing on Iran | Trump on war: 'I hope not' | Key Republican calls threats credible | Warren plan targets corporate influence at Pentagon MORE said in his opening statement.

“We’ve got a lot of talent on this committee and we’re going to do a lot of good,” he added.


Last month, the Texas lawmaker announced six additions to the panel’s roster, including an ex-Navy SEAL and a former A-10 pilot.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), meanwhile, named eight Democrats to the committee last week, including a Marine Corps veteran who served four tours in Iraq and the highest-ranking enlisted soldier in congressional history, as well as Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.).

The reconstructed panel unanimously approved four resolutions during the 16-minute meeting, including a rules package that made several tweaks to the committee’s oversight structure.

Chief among them was moving intelligence policy and coordination from the Emerging Threats and Capabilities subpanel to the main committee.

Thornberry, an intelligence wonk who led the subpanel in the last Congress, said he “struggled” with the decision. But he said that the move makes sense because many of the platforms used in intelligence-gathering are overseen across the panel's several subcommittees.

Also, “having it at the full committee really gives me a chance to involve more members in military intelligence issues. I think that’s important,” he told reporters after the meeting.

“That line between intelligence and operations is blurrier than it’s been before,” he said.

The full committee also approved shifting the Energy Department’s nonproliferation and cooperative threat reduction efforts to the Strategic Forces subpanel’s portfolio.

And lawmakers revamped their security procedures so that members can take notes during classified briefings.

The panel received several closed-door briefings in the last Congress on global hot spots like Iraq, Iran and the Ukraine. However, lawmakers were barred from jotting down notes.

Under the new rule, members can take notes, but must leave them with a staffer who will keep them in a safe for future reference.

“I’m telling you, this is revolutionary stuff around here,” Thornberry joked after the meeting.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the panel’s top Democrat, hailed the committee as the most bipartisan in Congress, before joking “that’s not very hard to accomplish.”

He stressed that the panel has a serious obligation in passing a National Defense Authorization Act, something lawmakers have done for 53 straight years.

Thornberry closed by noting that Armed Services is the largest committee in Congress and that “the challenge for me is to be fair, giving every member the chance to participate.”

He said the panel would “doing things differently than the past,” but would still adhere to a strict five-minute rule for each member’s questions during hearings.

“I think we’re going to have a great year,” Smith said.