There are two (2) Congressional Authorization Committees that have legislative authority, authorize programs, and conduct oversight over Department of Defense (DoD) programs. (see Authorization & Appropriation)
The two committees are:
- Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC): The SASC is empowered with legislative oversight of the nation’s military, including the Department of Defense, military research and development, nuclear energy (as pertaining to national security), benefits for members of the military, the Selective Service System and other matters related to defense policy.
- House Armed Services Committee (HASC): The HASC is a standing committee of the United States House of Representatives that is responsible for funding and oversight of the DoD and the United States armed forces, as well as substantial portions of the Department of Energy.
Authorization is an act of Congress that permits a federal program or activity to begin or continue from year to year. It sets limits on funds that can be appropriated but does not grant funding which must be provided by a separate congressional appropriation.
The HASC and SASC hearings begin after the President’s State of the Union Message. The initial “posture” hearings are conducted with the most senior members of the executive branch, DoD and the Services discussing and defending the programs in the Presidents Budget (PB). Follow-on hearings will go on for several months, delving into a variety of issues concerning particularly political or sensitive aspects of the budget.
The HASC will normally be the first to complete its review of the budget. After mark-up sessions in which committee members (and staffers) conduct a line-by-line review of the PB, the HASC and SASC will each send their own version of the Authorization Bill to the floor of their respective chambers. On the floor, the proposed bill will be debated, possibly amended, and finally approved. Assuming there are differences between the House and Senate versions (which is normal), a conference will be convened to discuss and resolve those differences. After any differences have been resolved and the bill passed in identical form by both the full House and full Senate, it becomes an Act and is sent to the President for the signature to become law.
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