Profile: House Armed Services Committee
House Armed Services Committee was a participant or observer in the following events:
A group of conservative strategic thinkers and policymakers attends a dinner party in Santa Monica, California. It is at this dinner party that the notorious “Team B” intelligence analysis team will be formed (see Early 1976). The cohost of the gathering is Albert Wohlstetter (see 1965), the eminent neoconservative academic and policy analyst. The next day, the guests join fellow conservative ideologues at a Beverly Hills conference called “Arms Competition and Strategic Doctrine.” Wohlstetter uses selectively declassified intelligence data to accuse the Pentagon of systematically underestimating Soviet military might. Wohlstetter will soon publish his arguments in the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy magazine, and Strategic Review. In July, respected Cold War figure Paul Nitze will use Wohlstetter’s assertions in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee to accuse Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the CIA of dangerously underestimating both the Soviet Union’s military strength and its intentions. Some old-line Cold Warriors—many of whom find themselves in sympathy with the upstart neoconservatives—begin attacking both the CIA’s intelligence reporting and the US-Soviet policy of detente. Author Craig Unger will write, “This was the beginning of a thirty-year fight against the national security apparatus in which the [neoconservatives] mastered the art of manipulating intelligence in order to implement hard-line, militaristic policies.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 48-49]
Longtime US Army intelligence officer Tom Golden is assigned by the CIA to oversee government contracts within the highly classified Continuity of Government program, which is designed to keep the government functioning in times of disaster. Golden, who has served 20 years in the Army and has a history of tracking down misspending and malfeasance in classified programs, will now serve as chief of the operations security branch at the Information Systems Command in Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Future staff director of the House Armed Services Committee Rudy DeLeon will later say Golden has a “very clearly established track record for honesty” as a whistleblower. Golden will report several instances of waste, fraud, and abuse in July 1987 (see July 1987) and will soon after become the target of a retaliatory smear campaign (see After July 1987). [Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/16/1990; Knight Ridder, 12/18/1990]
Members of the House Armed Services Committee investigate a smear campaign against veteran US Army intelligence officer and whistleblower Tom Golden, who was assigned to a watchdog post within the highly secretive Continuity of Government (COG) program in 1984 (see January 1984) and informed the Army Inspector General’s Office of several instances of waste, fraud, and abuse within his unit at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, in July 1987 (see July 1987). Golden was removed from his position shortly after speaking to Army investigators and has since been targeted by members of the COG program for further retaliation (see After July 1987). Attempts by the committee to investigate claims of retaliation against Golden are thwarted by the secrecy of the program. Most of the congressmen lack the necessary security clearances to hear testimony on the COG project. Still, in a classified 1989 report, the House Armed Services Committee will conclude that Golden is the target of a lengthy and deliberate smear campaign. The Army Inspector General’s Office has reached a similar conclusion (see Summer 1987), as will the Justice Department (see January-November 1990). Despite the findings, the effort to discredit Golden will continue for years (see August 1990). During the investigation, the Congressional committee learns enough to fear for Golden’s safety and urges the Army to transfer him to Huntsville, Alabama, which it does. [Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/16/1990; Knight Ridder, 12/18/1990; CNN Special Assignment, 11/17/1991]
US Representative Lester Aspin (D-WI), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, sends a letter to Army Secretary John Marsh criticizing the Army Inspector General’s Office for failing to keep the identity of a key whistleblower confidential and for botching an investigation into corruption within the highly secretive Continuity of Government (COG) program (see Summer 1987). The House Armed Services Committee is currently investigating the case of Army intelligence officer Tom Golden, who was retaliated against after revealing to Army investigators several instances of waste, fraud, and abuse within the COG unit stationed at Fort Hauchuca, Arizona (see July 1987 and After July 1987). Aspin expresses “concern about the objectivity and competence of the investigation,” noting that “confidentiality was breached almost immediately by the head of the inspector general inspection team,” referring to Colonel Ned Bacheldor, formally the chief of the inspector general’s intelligence oversight division, who spoke with Golden personally and later leaked his identity to the very officers Golden had implicated. Bacheldor left the inspector general’s office midway through the investigation of Golden’s case to join the COG unit at Fort Hauchuca. Aspin’s committee will conclude that Golden is the victim of a retaliatory smear campign led in part by Bacheldor. The Army Inspector General’s Office has reached a similar conclusion (see Summer 1987), as will the Justice Department (see January-November 1990), but the effort to discredit Golden will continue (see August 1990). [Emerson, 8/7/1989; Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/16/1990; Knight Ridder, 12/18/1990]
Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) introduces a resolution that would request the Bush administration to divulge the name, or names, of the White House officials responsible for leaking the CIA status of Valerie Plame Wilson to the press (see June 13, 2003, June 23, 2003, July 7, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, July 8, 2003, 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003, 8:00 a.m. July 11, 2003, Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003, 1:26 p.m. July 12, 2003, and July 12, 2003). The resolutions are referred to four House committees: Judiciary, International Relations, Armed Services, and Intelligence. The Republican leadership votes the resolution down in each committee, arguing in each case that to make such a request would interfere with the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigation. In December 2005, the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee will write, “This argument would seem to be disingenuous given that there are numerous precedents for Congressional committees investigating concurrently with the Justice Department and with other matters under criminal review by the executive branch, most notably many concurrent investigations by the Republican Congress involving the Clinton administration.” [Waxman, 12/2005]
In response to a bill by Representative John Murtha (D-PA) calling for a measured troop withdrawal from Iraq (see November 17, 2005 and November 17, 2005), Duncan Hunter (R-CA), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a staunch supporter of the war, submits a “stunt resolution” calling for the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq. The resolution’s entire text reads, “It is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.” Hunter and his fellow Republicans never intend for the measure to be passed; Republicans say the resolution was merely intended to show how extreme Murtha’s bill is, while Democrats say it was offered to tie up debate on Murtha’s real legislative offering. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) explains that his party offered the resolution because: “We want to make sure that we support our troops that are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. We will not retreat.” The resolution fails 403-3. No Republican, including Hunter, votes for it. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) instructs Democrats not to play into Republicans’ hands by voting for the bill. She later says, “Just when you thought you’d seen it all, the Republicans have stooped to new lows, even for them.” [Associated Press, 11/18/2005; New York Times, 11/19/2005]
Former National Security Agency (NSA) intelligence analyst and current whistleblower Russell Tice tells the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations that he worries about what he calls a “special access” electronic surveillance program that is far more wide-ranging than the warrantless wiretapping recently exposed by the New York Times. However, Tice says he is forbidden by law to reveal specifics of the program to Congress. Tice says he believes the program violates the Constitution’s protection against unlawful search and seizures, but for him to discuss it with anyone in Congress or even with the NSA’s inspector general would violate classification laws. A spokesman for Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) says both Kucinich and committee chairman Christopher Shays (R-CT) believe that a few members of the Armed Services Committee have high enough security clearances for Tice’s information: “Congressman Kucinich wants Congressman Shays to hold a hearing [on the program]. Obviously it would have to take place in some kind of a closed hearing. But Congress has a role to play in oversight. The [Bush] administration does not get to decide what Congress can and can not hear.” In January 2006, it emerged Tice was one of the sources for the New York Times’s revelation that the NSA is engaged in possibly illegal wiretapping of American civilians as part of the war on terror (see January 10, 2006). Tice was fired from the NSA in 2005 and labeled “paranoid,” a classification Tice says was pasted on him in retaliation for his whistleblowing both inside the agency and to the public (see January 25-26, 2006). [United Press International, 2/14/2006] Author James Bamford, an expert on US intelligence, says, “The congressional intelligence committees have lost total control over the intelligence communities. You can’t get any oversight or checks and balances; the Congress is protecting the White House and the White House can do whatever it wants.” [In These Times, 5/15/2006]
The Bush administration flatly opposes an additional 0.5% pay raise for military personnel, an addition to Bush’s proposed 3% pay raise, saying that troops don’t need bigger pay raises. The House Armed Services Committee wants a 3.5% pay raise for 2008, and increases in 2009 and 2010 that are also 0.5% higher than private-sector pay raises. The raises are intended to reduce the gap between military and civilian pay that currently stands at 3.9%. Bush administration budget officials also oppose these raises. A policy statement reads, “When combined with the overall military benefit package, the president’s proposal provides a good quality of life for service members and their families. While we agree military pay must be kept competitive, the 3 percent raise, equal to the increase in the Employment Cost Index, will do that.” The Bush administration also opposes a provision that would provide a death gratuity for federal civilian employees who die in support of military operations, price controls for prescription drugs for soldiers and their families, an extra $40 per month for widows of slain soldiers, and new benefits for disabled retirees and the survivors of military retirees. [Army Times, 5/17/2007; Speaker of the House, 5/17/2007] On May 18, Representative Patrick Murphy (D-PA), an Iraq war veteran, denounces Bush’s opposition to the pay and benefit raises, saying, “But the fact is, is that those privates who are making $17,000 a year, those privates that are leaving their wives, their kids at home, many of whom have to survive on food stamps, those privates who saw what we did in the defense bill, who said that’s great, 3.5% pay increase, not even $1,000 more a year, a couple hundred dollars a year, the President of the United States said, ‘Private, thank you for your service to your country, but that’s too much of a pay increase.’” [Speaker of the House, 7/20/2007]
Over $1 billion in weapons and material given by the US military to Iraqi security forces cannot be found or accounted for, according to a new report issued by the Defense Department’s Inspector General. Tractor trailers, tank recovery vehicles, crates of machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades make up just some of the “lost” weapons and munitions. CBS News characterizes the report as detailing “a massive failure in government procurement revealing little accountability for the billions of dollars spent purchasing military hardware for the Iraqi security forces.” The report gives numerous specifics, including the fact that of 13,508 weapons—pistols, assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns, and more—12,712, or almost 90%, cannot be found or accounted for. One Defense Department official, Claude Bolton, the assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics, and technology, has already submitted his resignation, and Congress is expected to investigate. [CBS News, 12/6/2007] The US intelligence community has previously concluded that thousands of weapons given by the US to Iraqi security forces wound up in the hands of insurgents. One instance cited by an intelligence source describes a US military contractor somehow losing track of an entire shipment of Glock pistols. The Defense Department is conducting a massive bribery investigation centered around a military base in Kuwait, involving dozens of high-level US officers and private military contractors. House Armed Service Committee members lambasted what they called the “culture of corruption” surrounding billions in Iraq war contracts. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), the committee’s ranking minority member and a presidential candidate, says, “The number of folks who have enormous responsibility to this country are involved has, I think, made this a real tragedy for our country.” [CBS News, 9/20/2007]
Ike Skelton. [Source: Washington Post]Representative Ike Skelton (D-MO), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, says he is angered by the allegations of a secret Pentagon propaganda operation using retired military officers as supposedly independent media analysts (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond). “There is nothing inherently wrong with providing information to the public and the press,” Skelton says. “But there is a problem if the Pentagon is providing special access to retired officers and then basically using them as pawns to spout the administration’s talking points of the day.” Skelton adds that he is deeply disturbed by the ties between the retired officers and various defense contractors. “It hurts me to my core to think that there are those from the ranks of our retired officers who have decided to cash in and essentially prostitute themselves on the basis of their previous positions within the Department of Defense,” he says. [Stars and Stripes, 4/26/2008]
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