At R Street, Casey Burgat looks at congressional oversight capacity on national security and foreign affairs. Here he examines the House Committees on Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security, and Armed Services.
[D]espite regular increases from 2003 through 2010, the committee allocations of the four military and foreign affairs-related committees in the 108th Congress (about $60 million) is very close to the number allocated in the 116th Congress ($62 million). In fact, allocations have decreased over $2 million during the period, and nearly $15 million or 20 percent from their highwater mark during the 111th Congress. 17 House committee allotments are collected from House resolutions for each Congress. This drop is uniquely problematic given that the budgets for the federal agencies that the committees are supposed to oversee— the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security—increased over 60 percent during that same time period. These trends highlight the reality that Congress is using the same number of staff to oversee agencies that have grown considerably since 2002.
He looks at the staff tenure on the four House committees and their Senate counterparts:
Overall, in these committees as within Congress, it is a bleak picture. None of the eight committees boast a median tenure of longer than six years. The Senate Armed Services Committee has, on average, the longest serving staffers of the eight committees of interest with a median of 5.9 years, and this number also represents the second-longest average tenure of any Senate committee, trailing only the Senate Appropriations Committee’s median tenure of 7.1 years. On the other end of the spectrum, the House Homeland Security committee has the shortest average tenure of the eight, and shortest of all committees
in the House, at 3.4 years.
To place these numbers in context, this means that the average committee staffer responsible for issues relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the military operations in Libya, Syria and beyond, was not on the committee more than five years ago, and thus is over a decade removed from working on the committee when the most recent AUMF was approved by Congress. More directly, nearly all aides were not serving on one of the relevant committees—or in Congress at all— the last time it explicitly voted on whether or not to approve military force.