WASHINGTON — A congressional bipartisan commission will examine President Joe Biden’s 2022 National Defense Strategy and craft recommendations for its implementation, Congress announced Wednesday.
The bipartisan leaders of the Senate and House Armed Services committees named eight commissioners who will develop a report to Congress over the next year on “the assumptions, objectives, defense investments, force posture and structure, operational concepts and military risks” of the National Defense Strategy.
The commission is required under the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act and mirrors a similar panel that reviewed former President Donald Trump’s 2018 National Defense Strategy. Defense hawks in Congress seized on the 2018 commission’s findings to argue for higher military spending.
Democrats have selected former Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., to chair the 2022 commission, while Republicans have picked former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman as its vice chairman.
“I am very impressed with these appointments with two highly experienced and respected leaders in Jane Harman and Eric Edelman,” Arnold Punaro, the former Democratic staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Defense News. “The other members are also recognized thought leaders in the national security area.”
Punaro said the commissioners “will call it as they see it.”
“This is another indication that in divided government, the national security leadership in the Congress will continue to ensure that we get the policy and funding support required,” he added.
Harman previously served as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. After that, she went on to become the first female CEO of the Wilson Center, a security focused think tank in Washington, and currently chairs the board of Freedom House — a nonprofit dedicated to advancing democracy and human rights.
Edelman is counselor at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. He has also served as former Vice President Dick Cheney’s principal deputy assistant for national security affairs as well as U.S. ambassador to Turkey in the Bush administration and ambassador to Finland in the Clinton administration.
Edelman is one of four members of the current National Defense Strategy Commission who also served on the analogous 2018 panel. The other members returning from the 2018 commission are Jack Keane, Thomas Mahnken and Roger Zakheim.
Keane is a retired four-star general who served as the former vice chief of staff for the Army and regularly appears on Fox News. Mahnken is president and CEO of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and served as the deputy assistant secretary of defense of policy planning in the Bush administration. Zakheim is the Washington director at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and previously served as the Republican deputy staff director on the House Armed Services Committee.
Three other members, Mara Rudman, Mariah Sixkiller and Alissa Starzak, will be serving on a National Defense Strategy commission for the first time.
Rudman is the executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress and previously served as deputy assistant for national security affairs to both former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Sixkiller is strategic defense affairs officer at Microsoft’s defense business unit and has previously served as national security adviser to former House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. Starzak is a vice president at the cybersecurity firm Cloudflare and previously served as general counsel for the Army.
Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.