Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

David Kimball


David B. Robertson

Andrew D. Glassberg

David C. Kimball

J. Martin Rochester


Is defense policy more collegial than other policy issues addressed by Congress? More specifically, what are the institutional and political motives which drive a majority of the members of Congress to consistently transcend partisanship in order to pass defense focused legislation into law?

The purpose of this study was to test whether or not the consideration of defense policy in the House of Representatives is unique in its ability to transcend partisanship. And if so, why?

Hypothesis: The formulation of defense policy in the U.S. House of Representatives is approached with more collegiality than other policy issue areas, mainly due to institutional, domestic, and international political pressures on members that transcend competing partisan motivations.

Defense policy was operationalized by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). “Other types of policy” was operationalized by the Farm Bill and the Highway Bill. “Collegiality,” the primary dependent variable, was defined as exceptional and consistent cooperative interaction among colleagues over time that rendered legislation which garnered support of at least a bipartisan supermajority (two-thirds) of the House of Representatives upon its final passage.

A mixed methods approach was employed using the annual NDAA process as a study vehicle. Qualitative and quantitative analysis included case studies of U.S. legislative history that compared the NDAA process with that of the Farm Bill and Highway Bill. Deliberations over the bills were explored during three five-year periods of notable partisanship in U.S. politics that coupled with notable U.S. security concerns abroad: 1961-66, 1993-98, and 2007-12. Case studies were complemented by interviews with 25 members of the policy community

The study concluded that the NDAA is essentially a de facto annual omnibus authorization bill with unparalleled political and institutional momentum that serves individual policymaker interests as well as the public interest. As such, the NDAA is an institution unto itself and its annual process consistently demands House members approach it in a uniquely collegial manner, providing strong evidence defense policy formulation is more collegial than other policy areas.

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