FOCUS ON THE US
Defense and national security
The 115th Congress will mark the first opportunity in a decade for a Republican-controlled House and Senate to work with a Republican president. In 2017, leading GOP defense and national security policymakers on Capitol Hill will work with the Trump Administration to craft legislation and conduct hearings in support of the President's key defense priorities, including:
Developing a new approach to counter ISIS; Eliminating existing defense spending caps established by the Budget Control Act; Increasing the strength, size and readiness of the US Armed Forces; Improving federal cybersecurity infrastructure and capabilities; and Identifying efficiencies and other cost-cutting mechanisms within the Department of Defense (DoD) bureaucracy Leveraging DoD innovation initiatives to foster greater collaboration with non-traditional commercial interests. Although Senate and House Armed Services Committee Chairmen John McCain and Mac Thornberry may not be in lockstep alignment with the Trump Administration across the defense policy spectrum, enough common ground exists to provide for a productive year of legislating and oversight by their respective committees in 2017.
Building on Congressional passage of defense acquisition reform measures over the past two years, McCain and Thornberry, with cooperation from Democratic members of their respective committees, will continue to champion legislation to streamline the DoD procurement process and enhance the Department's innovation programs in an effort to, in Thornberry's words, "get better technology into the hands of the warfighter faster and more efficiently." Cybersecurity will be another major policy focal point for defense lawmakers during the 115th Congress. McCain has indicated that he intends to use his committee's oversight function in 2017 to ensure that the DoD and the Armed Forces have "the resources, personnel, and capabilities necessary to defend, deter, and respond to our adversaries in cyberspace."
Cybersecurity will also take a prominent role with respect to relations with Russia. While speculation abounds regarding how the Administration will work to "reset" the US-Russia relationship, bipartisan coalitions are already forming in the Senate to pressure the new administration to maintain the sanctions imposed in late 2016. Legislation codifying those sanctions is already circulating, and while its passage might not be certain, it serves notice on the incoming executive team that Congress intends to play a role in key foreign policy and national security areas.
In the coming year, defense lawmakers will also continue to exercise their policymaking and oversight authority over matters relating to ongoing US military activities, including in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia.
Additionally, the congressional Armed Services Committees will continue to focus on:
Russia's activities along Europe's Eastern Flank and in the Middle East; Iran's influence and participation in ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, as well as that nation's compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (aka the Iran Nuclear Deal); North Korea's continued development of its nuclear weapons program; and ISIS's expansion of its global footprint, with a particular focus on the continent of Africa. Foreign investment...