House Armed Services delays NDAA markup amid coronavirus pandemic

Move was necessary to comply with extension of social distancing guidance, Smith says

House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith, left, says the April 30 defense authorization markup was canceled to comply with the 30-day extension of the Trump administration’s guidance on social distancing. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith, left, says the April 30 defense authorization markup was canceled to comply with the 30-day extension of the Trump administration’s guidance on social distancing. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted March 30, 2020 at 4:41pm

The House Armed Services Committee has indefinitely postponed its markup of the fiscal 2021 defense authorization due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Washington Democrat Adam Smith, the panel’s chairman, said Monday that the cancellation of the April 30 markup was necessary to comply with the 30-day extension of the Trump administration’s guidance on social distancing to stop the spread of the virus. The committee will announce a new date for the markup at a later time.

“The House Armed Services Committee has been, and will continue to be, in strict compliance with the guidance we have received from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Sergeant at Arms, and the House Attending Physician,” Smith said.

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The marathon markup, which begins in the morning and often extends past midnight, requires the 57 committee members, as well as staffers, reporters and the general public, to crowd into the committee’s hearing room in the Rayburn Building. The administration’s guidance discourages groups of 10 or more people.

The defense authorization bill has been enacted each year for more than a half century, an unparalleled track record among congressional oversight committees that gives Armed Services significant influence on Pentagon spending priorities and policy.

The committee announced Friday that it was exploring ways to conduct the hearing process that proceeds the markup of the bill by written communication and teleconferencing. The Senate Armed Services Committee has already begun conducting their oversight hearings of the Pentagon by correspondence.