Pentagon Watchdog Named Chair of House Military Personnel Subcommittee

FILE -- Rep. Jackie Speier talks to reporters during a news conference in the U.S. Capitol December 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
FILE -- Rep. Jackie Speier talks to reporters during a news conference in the U.S. Capitol December 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

An outspoken critic of the Trump administration's defense policies and a proponent of sexual-assault policy reform in the Defense Department will chair the House Armed Services Committee subcommittee on military personnel.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California, has served on the HASC since 2012 and was named the personnel subcommittee's ranking member in 2017. Since serving on the committee, she has introduced 17 bills to reform military personnel policies, including legislation that would require the DoD to establish a sexual-assault oversight and response office; that would allow transgender personnel to remain and serve in the military; and that would ensure that military service women have access to birth control without having to pay for it.

More recently, Speier has pledged to hold hearings on the Feres doctrine -- the ruling that bars service members in most cases from suing the government for injury -- and was instrumental in expanding funding for the Boards of Corrections for Military and Naval Records, money considered necessary to hire more staff to review applications for veterans who received other-than-honorable discharges for behavior linked to combat trauma, sexual assault or sexual orientation.

"After seven years serving on the House Armed Services Committee, I am ready to lead the subcommittee on military personnel, where we will rigorously pursue solutions to end the cultural rot that has allowed sexual assault to run rampant in our armed forces for far too long and address many other critical issues that impact not only our service members but their families, who also bear the burden of sacrifice and commitment to our country," Speier said Wednesday in a release.

She added that her priorities include "combating the Trump administration's campaign of discrimination against transgender service members; addressing the fallout of Feres ... increasing accountability for retaliation against whistleblowers and assault survivors; employing better data to optimize recruitment and retention programs; and eliminating waste, fraud and abuse at all levels."

The military personnel subcommittee is responsible for overseeing and managing military personnel policy, education and employment issues, reserve component integration, military health care, benefits and POW/MIA issues.

Speier is a native of San Francisco. After earning a bachelor's degree from the University of California-Davis and a law degree from the University of California Hastings College of Law, she went to work as a congressional aide to Rep. Leo Ryan, a California Democrat. She was accompanying him on a fact-finding mission to Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978, when followers of Jim Jones and the People's Temple cult ambushed the congressional group, killing Ryan and shooting Speier five times.

After the tragedy, she unsuccessfully ran for her former boss' seat. She was then elected to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and later elected to the California State Senate, where she represented parts of San Francisco and San Mateo counties.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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