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New Congress Includes Veterans, But None From WWII

A number of military veterans are among the new members of Congress set to swear in Tuesday. Many will have served in the recent wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. Notably, however, the 114th Congress will be without a World War II veteran for the first time since 1944.

Veterans In Congress

Over the last 25 years, the number of veterans serving on Capitol Hill has dropped dramatically as the high numbers of draft-era vets have been replaced by the lesser numbers of modern war former “service members. In 1971, more than 70 percent of Congressional representatives were veterans. Today, that group makes up less than 18 percent.

But still, a number of military veterans are among the new Congress members set to swear in on Tuesday. Republican Lee Zeldin of New York who served in the Army in Iraq, and Democrats Seth Moulton and Ruben Gallego, both Marines in the same war, are a few examples.

With the new changes and fresh faces coming to the House of Representatives and the Senate, what will that mean for veterans across the country? And how big of an impact do military veteran lawmakers make once they are elected?

Peter Feaver of Duke University discusses this with Here & Now’s Lisa Mullins.

Interview Highlights

On veterans in Congress supporting war

“At the individual level you expect some variance, at the aggregate level though if you look at over 150 years of experience the percentage of veterans in Congress is associated with the actual performance of American foreign policy. The more veterans in Congress, the less likely the U.S. is to initiate the use of force, but if force is used, it will be a at a higher rate of escalation, and the inverse is true.”

On veteran and military spending

“Politicians regardless of the party tend to be supportive of more spending on veteran benefits…[However,] the pressure on defense spending is increasing, and pay and compensation and particularly the health cost of veterans is crowding out spending on active duty military.”

The big question

“Do you pay for the military you used to have or do you pay for the military you will need now and in future?”


  • Peter Feaver, professor of political science and public policy at Duke University, where he studies civil-military relations.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.