Monday, February 25, 2019

Foreign Relations vs Defense: A Quick Look at Some Interesting Patterns of Overseers

I saw this tweet

and my first response was to consider the Senate Armed Services Committee:
 Nine women are on the SASC.  So, it clear is not that national security ain't too cool for women or women are too cool for international relations.  The same pattern, although less extreme applies in the House of Representatives with six women on the Foreign Relations committee and fifteen on the Armed Services committee.

Here's a quick couple of guesses:
1)  Follow the money.  DoD has a huge budget AND this committee (along the House Armed Services Committee) can move money in the budget (unlike damn near every democracy I am studying right now), and there are big electoral benefits to increasing defense spending in one's state and protecting the existing bases in one's state.
2) If one has Presidential aspirations, having experience on the Senate Foreign Relations may have been seen in the past as key to developing one's credentials (Obama, HRC), maybe one consequence of our forever wars is that it may be more important these days to be conversant on defense than on foreign policy (not great).  Notice Warren and Gillibrand choosing to be here and not on SFRC.
3) Who does the media cover?  Related to 1 and 2, one is more likely to be televised overseeing DoD and scrubbing the Acting Secretary of Defense and asking Generals/Admirals to contradict the President than asking State flunkies stuff.

The key assumption behind all of this is that committee service is a drain of time and effort and does not tend to get much votes back home, so Senators try to be strategic.  How much of a role does the party have in assigning people versus Senators choosing?  That is for one of my co-authors to figure out, but I do think this pattern is interesting--that women get assigned/prefer to be on the harder side of security.  Given that female Senators are still relatively scarce, that so many are on SASC and so few on SFRC, it says something about what we value these days.  Unless one thinks that serving on the Armed Services Committee is a punishment or lesser service, which it is most clearly not.

Anyhow, I am sure scholars will be pondering this pattern and others like it.

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