Congress’s new female vets will oversee the US military’s massive budget

Mikie Sherrill campaigning for the Congressional seat she won on Nov. 6.
Mikie Sherrill campaigning for the Congressional seat she won on Nov. 6.
Image: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
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A powerful Congressional committee charged with overseeing the Pentagon’s vast $700 billion annual budget is now stacked with female military veterans, after the landmark 2018 elections brought a wave of women to Congress.

The House Armed Services Committee named 16 new Democratic members, according to a Jan. 15 email from committee chair Adam Smith of Washington state. Ten are women, and three of those are military vets who are new to Congress: Chrissy Houlahan is a third-generation veteran who served in the Air Force; Mikie Sherrill, a former Navy helicopter pilot; and Elaine Luria had a 20-year career in the Navy as a nuclear engineer. They join Tulsi Gabbard, an Army veteran and Democrat from Hawaii. Republicans have not yet declared their Armed Services Committee members.

The overall number of women is believed to be a record for the House committee, which was started in 1947 and has never had a female chair. Patricia Schroeder, a Democrat from Colorado, became its first female member in 1973; the chairman at the time made her literally share a chair with another member of the committee during an organizational meeting to make her uncomfortable, she recalled to a biographer.

The US military industrial complex is increasingly run by women, as Politico reported this month; they are the top executives at defense contractors and some of the top military officials designing and purchasing the US’s massive military arsenal.

Being in the military was a common path to Congress in decades past, and nearly three-quarters of members elected in the years after the Vietnam War had served, the Military Times notes; now less than 20% of Congress has. However, the 2018 elections brought 19 brand new military veterans to office from both sides of the aisle. The US Congress overall now has seven female veterans, a record.