What is going on in Congress this summer….
Another large aspect of my summer internship will be the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA is arguably the most important piece of legislation that passes through Congress every year. Fortunately, I arrived just in time to take part in this process. The actual 544 pages of the NDAA include what has been described by Sen. McCain as “the most sweeping reforms … in a generation.” These reforms include modernizing the military health care system, improving the way the military develops and acquires new technology, and improving the military justice system. Apart from these changes, the NDAA of course provides the necessary funding to keep our military running and prepared to fulfill its mission.
Beyond the 544 pages of the NDAA, another process is raging; the amendment process. This process allows individual Senators to add or remove items from the bill. The current amendments have already more than doubles the 544 pages of the NDAA and when all is said and done, there will likely be 400+ amendments. These amendments range from massive changes to the DOD to minute issues not related to US national security in the least. One major amendment, submitted by Sen. Daines, would elevate Cyber Command to the level of full combatant command. Amendments such as this will have enormous impacts on US national security and would reshape the way we address threats to our nation. As an intern, I am responsible for tracking these amendments and organizing them into a database which will allow our staff to keep track of the changes we want to support and those we want to oppose.
How Congress Contributes to US National Security
While most of the direct control over the military is based in the executive branch, Congress does play an important role in providing and steering the DOD. Committee hearings and the NDAA represent two significant contributions by Congress to US national security. These two aspects complement each other in the process of governmental oversight. Hearings in the Senate are used to gather information on issues that the Senators on the committee feel are pertinent to the defense of the people of the United States. When an issue becomes pressing enough to warrant a hearing, the committee staff and Senators’ individual staffs delve into the issue to establish a solid understanding of the different aspects of the issue. Additionally, expert witnesses are called to testify before the committee in order to provide the Senators with an erudite perspective on the issue. Professors Byman and Hoffman often fulfill this role when the issue being examined is terrorism. The hearings ideally expose some short fall or need within the government that requires congressional action to correct.
The NDAA and subsequent amendments represent this action in response to these hearings. For example, recent hearings on US cyber vulnerabilities have led to the creation of the Cyber Com and resulted in the proposed escalation of Cyber Com to the level of a combatant command. When an issue is brought up in a hearing, it is often done to facilitate the amending of or creation of new laws to ensure the government is or can fulfill its obligations to the people of the United States. Through this process, US national security is constantly scrutinized and improved.
From interning to working
An internship on Capitol Hill is practically a rite of passage in Washington D.C. It is also a necessity for anyone hoping to work on the Hill. This internship will allow me to make valuable contacts on the Hill and demonstrate my ability to conduct the valuable business done here. A former boss wisely told me, “an internship is just an extended job interview.” This mindset is the one I take with me every day to the Hill. In today’s job market where a bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma and an internship is not a promise of employment, it is imperative to make yourself known as widely as possible and make sure any mention of you includes your hard work ethic and desire to excel.