New committee assignments should give Utah some increased clout when Congress debates military policy and it comes at a time of increased pressure to reduce spending and possibly close bases.
Sen. Mike Lee announced that he's joining the Armed Services Committee and Rep. Rob Bishop returns to the equivalent House panel after a short sabbatical. On top of that, Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart are taking seats on the Homeland Security Committee.
This boosted presence occurs as the military is facing its first contraction since the attack of Sept. 11, 2001. The Pentagon is already implementing a $500 billion funding reduction over the next decade and it could face more cuts as Congress seeks to reduce federal spending.
President Barack Obama has also called for a new round of base closures, though few in Congress have yet to support such a move.
Hill Air Force Base in northern Utah is one of the state's largest employers and Utah's politicians have sought to protect it from any more reductions in force following a 2012 reorganization that trimmed 159 jobs and sent the headquarters command to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma.
Lee, a Republican who joined the Senate in 2011, has attempted to become a bigger player on military affairs, an area where Sen. Orrin Hatch has traditionally taken the lead. Lee joins the Armed Services panel while also keeping his assignments on Judiciary, Energy and the Joint Economic Committee.
"I will make sure Utah has a seat at the table as the Pentagon continues to strengthen and modernize our national defense," Lee said Friday.
Bishop, R-Utah, has been an active member of the House Armed Services Committee, but he took a leave at the request of House Speaker John Boehner to be a member of the Rules Committee, which sets the parameters for congressional debate.
This year, Bishop received a waiver from House leaders to rejoin the Armed Services Committee, while also remaining on Rules and keeping his chairmanship of the Public Lands subcommittee.
The committee assignments for Utah's other members are as follows:
Hatch, R-Utah • Finance (ranking member), Judiciary and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees.
Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah • Energy and Commerce Committee.
Chaffetz, R-Utah • Judiciary, Homeland Security and Oversight and Government Reform committees.
Stewart, R-Utah • Natural Resources, Homeland Security and Science, Space and Technology committees.