A committee is a type of small deliberative assembly
Deliberative assembly
A deliberative assembly is an organization comprising members who use parliamentary procedure to make decisions. In a speech to the electorate at Bristol in 1774, Edmund Burke described the English Parliament as a "deliberative assembly," and the expression became the basic term for a body of...

 that is usually intended to remain subordinate to another, larger deliberative assembly—which when organized so that action on committee requires a vote by all its entitled members, is called the "Committee of the Whole
Committee of the Whole
A Committee of the Whole is a device in which a legislative body or other deliberative assembly is considered one large committee. All members of the legislative body are members of such a committee...

". Committees often serve several different functions:
  • Governance: in organizations considered too large for all the members to participate in decisions affecting the organization as a whole, a committee (such as a Board of Directors or "Executive Committee") is given the power to make decisions, spend money, or take actions. Some or all such powers may be limited or effectively unlimited. For example of the later case, the Board of directors can frequently enter into binding contracts and make decisions which once taken or made, can't be taken back or undone under the law.

  • Coordination: individuals from different parts of an organization (for example, all senior vice presidents) might meet regularly to discuss developments in their areas, review projects that cut across organizational boundaries, talk about future options, etc. Where there is a large committee, it is common to have smaller committees with more specialized functions - for example, Boards of Directors of large corporations typically have an (ongoing) audit committee, finance committee, compensation committee, etc. Large academic conference
    Academic conference
    An academic conference or symposium is a conference for researchers to present and discuss their work. Together with academic or scientific journals, conferences provide an important channel for exchange of information between researchers.-Overview:Conferences are usually composed of various...

    s are usually organized by a co-ordinating committee drawn from the relevant professional body.

  • Research and recommendations: committees are often formed to do research
    Research can be defined as the scientific search for knowledge, or as any systematic investigation, to establish novel facts, solve new or existing problems, prove new ideas, or develop new theories, usually using a scientific method...

     and make recommendations on a potential or planned project or change. For example, an organization considering a major capital investment might create a temporary working committee of several people to review options and make recommendations to upper management or the Board of Directors. Such committees are typically dissolved after issuing recommendations (often in the form of a final report).

  • Project management: while it is generally considered poor management to give operational responsibility to a committee to actually manage a project, this is not unknown. The problem is that no single person can be held accountable for poor performance of the committee, particularly if the chairperson of the committee is seen as a facilitator.

Common committee procedures

  • It is common for a chairperson to organize a committee meeting through an agenda
    Agenda (meeting)
    An agenda is a list of meeting activities in the order in which they are to be taken up, by beginning with the call to order and ending with adjournment. It usually includes one or more specific items of business to be discussed. It may, but is not required to, include specific times for one or...

    , which is usually distributed in advance.
  • The chairperson is responsible for running meetings: keeping the discussion on the appropriate subject, recognizing members (calling on them to speak) [often omitted in smaller committees], and calling for votes after a debate has taken place [formal voting is normally only done in committees involved in governance]. Governance committees often have formal processes (for example, they might follow Roberts Rules of Order); other types of committees typically operate informally, with the chairperson being responsible for deciding how formal the committee processes will be.
  • Minutes
    Minutes, also known as protocols, are the instant written record of a meeting or hearing. They typically describe the events of the meeting, starting with a list of attendees, a statement of the issues considered by the participants, and related responses or decisions for the issues.Minutes may be...

    , a record of the discussion and decisions of the meeting, are often taken by a person designated as the secretary
    A secretary, or administrative assistant, is a person whose work consists of supporting management, including executives, using a variety of project management, communication & organizational skills. These functions may be entirely carried out to assist one other employee or may be for the benefit...

     of the committee; they may be legally obligatory (again, typically for governance committees, especially boards of directors).
  • For committees that meet regularly, the minutes of the most recent meeting are often circulated to committee members before the next meeting, and are available to the membership of the whole.
  • Committees may meet on a regular basis, often weekly or yearly, or meetings may be called irregularly as the need arises. During an emergency, a committee may meet more than once per day, or sit in permanent session, as, for example, ExComm (the President's Executive Committee) did during the Cuban Missile Crisis
    Cuban Missile Crisis
    The Cuban Missile Crisis was a confrontation among the Soviet Union, Cuba and the United States in October 1962, during the Cold War...



A committee that is a subset
In mathematics, especially in set theory, a set A is a subset of a set B if A is "contained" inside B. A and B may coincide. The relationship of one set being a subset of another is called inclusion or sometimes containment...

 of a larger committee is called a subcommittee.

Where the larger group has a name other than "committee" - for example, "Board" or "Commission", the smaller group(s) would usually be called committee(s), not subcommittee(s), and might go by an entirely different name, or substitute "Commission" for "Committee". For example in the sciences, the "International Commission on Stratigraphy
International Commission on Stratigraphy
The International Commission on Stratigraphy , sometimes referred to by the unofficial "International Stratigraphic Commission" is a daughter or major subcommittee grade scientific daughter organization that concerns itself with stratigraphy, geological, and geochronological matters on a global...

" (ICS
-Communications and technology:* Image Cytometry Standard, a digital multidimensional image file format used in life sciences microscopy* Industrial Control System* Information and Computer Science, the combined field of informatics and computing...

) a standing working committee is doing organizational work establishing uniform naming and benchmark
Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point
A Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point, abbreviated GSSP, is an internationally agreed upon stratigraphic section which serves as the reference section for a particular boundary on the geologic time scale. The effort to define GSSPs is conducted by the International Commission on...

s in the geologic record
Geologic record
The geologic record in stratigraphy, paleontology and other natural sciences refers to the entirety of the layers of rock strata — deposits laid down in volcanism or by sediment deposition of weathering detritus including all its fossil content and the information it yields about the history...

 and timeline since 1974, all under the auspices of the International Union of Geological Sciences
International Union of Geological Sciences
The International Union of Geological Sciences is an international non-governmental organization devoted to international cooperation in the field of geology.-About:...

 (IUGS). It is technically the "International Stratigraphy Committee" (ISC
-Computing:* Initiative for Software Choice, a group of software vendors* Internet Storm Center, a program run by the SANS Institute that monitors the level of malicious activity on the internet...

), which has limited executive committee powers to impanel other subcommittees (also called commissions) to resolve certain matters involving the Geologic time scale
Geologic time scale
The geologic time scale provides a system of chronologic measurement relating stratigraphy to time that is used by geologists, paleontologists and other earth scientists to describe the timing and relationships between events that have occurred during the history of the Earth...

—its deliberations and those of its subcommittees must be adopted by the IUGS which meets in a committee-of-the-whole or Congress, every four years or so to deliberate on the subcommittee recommendations and officially adopt or not-adopt such.

From the foregoing, it can easily be seen subcommittees can generally be classified further by the adjectives: "Executive", "Standing", and "Working":
Executive committees
A subcommittee which has well defined executive power
Executive Power
Executive Power is Vince Flynn's fifth novel, and the fourth to feature Mitch Rapp, an American agent that works for the CIA as an operative for a covert counter terrorism unit called the "Orion Team."-Plot summary:...

s usually spelled out in the charter or by-laws and which meets frequently to manage the affairs and further the purposes of an organization or entity. These are commonly empanelled as well when an organization has a large Board of Directors such as an international labor union, large corporations (with thousands of stock holders) or national and international organizations. A Board of directors
Board of directors
A board of directors is a body of elected or appointed members who jointly oversee the activities of a company or organization. Other names include board of governors, board of managers, board of regents, board of trustees, and board of visitors...

 is itself a kind of Executive committee established by the charter and by-laws of the entity and elected by the overall franchised
Suffrage, political franchise, or simply the franchise, distinct from mere voting rights, is the civil right to vote gained through the democratic process...

 membership. For organizations where the Board of Directors is large - say 20 people or more - it is common to have an Executive Committee of the Board—an executive subcommittee of Board members, which is authorized to make some decisions on behalf of the entire Board.

Standing committees
A committee established by an official and binding vote providing for its scope and powers. Most governmental legislative subcommittees are standing committees, which by another name is a permanent committee. Standing committees meet on a regular or irregular basis dependent upon their enabling act, and retain any power or oversight claims originally given them until subsequent official actions of the committee of the whole (changes to law or by-laws) disbands the committee.

Working committees
An ad hoc
Ad hoc
Ad hoc is a Latin phrase meaning "for this". It generally signifies a solution designed for a specific problem or task, non-generalizable, and not intended to be able to be adapted to other purposes. Compare A priori....

 committee established to accomplish a particular task or to oversee an ongoing area in need of control or oversight. Many are research or co-ordination committees in type or purpose, and can be temporary. Some are a sub-group of a larger society with a particular area of interest which decides to meet and discuss matters pertaining to their interests. For example a group of astronomers might get together ad hoc to discuss how to get the larger society to address near earth objects; A subgroup of engineers and scientists of a large project's development team could meet ad hoc to solve some particular issue with offsetting considerations and trade-offs. The term when used officially, generally means a group with specific duties and related authority, so when encountered in official contexts subsumes all other official types of committees. The International Commission on Stratigraphy and its subcommittees (commissions in name) are working committees that meet both far more regularly and more frequently both in deliberation and co-ordination furthering the needs of the IUGS (which regularly schedules meetings only every fourth year) and the larger scientific community.

A basic need

Committees are a necessary aspect of organizations of any significant size (say, more than 15 or 20 people). They keep the number of participants manageable; with larger groups, either many people do not get to speak (and feel left out), or discussions are quite lengthy (and many participants find them duplicative and often boring).

Cross-field reasons

Committees are a way to formally draw together people of relevant expertise from different parts of an organization who otherwise would not have a good way to share information and coordinate actions. They may have the advantage of widening viewpoints and sharing out responsibilities. They can also be empaneled with experts to recommend actions by the committee of the whole in matters that require specialized knowledge or technical judgment. A "Defense" or "Banking" subcommittee in legislative bodies or the many International science commissions such as the ICS
-Communications and technology:* Image Cytometry Standard, a digital multidimensional image file format used in life sciences microscopy* Industrial Control System* Information and Computer Science, the combined field of informatics and computing...

 mentioned above, or a local "board of health" are or may be such.

Conference committee

Standing committees

A standing committee is a subunit of a political or deliberative body established in a permanent fashion to aid the parent assembly in accomplishing its duties. A standing committee is usually granted jurisdiction over a particular area of legislation by the parent body.

Under the laws of the United States of America, a standing committee is a Congressional committee permanently authorized by United States House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

 and United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 rules. The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 greatly reduced the number of committees, and set up the legislative committee structure still in use today, as modified by authorized changes via the orderly mechanism of rules changes.

Standing committees in legislatures

The phrase is used in the legislature
A legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise or lower taxes and adopt the budget and...

s of the following countries:
  • Australia
    Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

    : see Australian House of Representatives committees
    Australian House of Representatives committees
    The committees of the Australian House of Representatives are committees of Member of Parliament, established by the Australian House of Representatives, for purposes determined by that body.-Purposes of committees:...

     and Australian Senate committees
    Australian Senate committees
    This article is about committees of the Senate. For consideration of bills 'in committee', see Committee of the WholeThe committees of the Australian Senate are committees of Senators, established by the Australian Senate, for purposes determined by that body...

  • Canada
    Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

    : see Standing committee (Canada)
    Standing committee (Canada)
    In Canada, a standing committee is a permanent committee established by Standing Orders of the House of Commons. It may study matters referred to it by special order or, within its area of responsibility in the Standing Orders, may undertake studies on its own initiative...

  • China
    Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

    : see Standing Committee of the National People's Congress
    Standing Committee of the National People's Congress
    The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress is a committee of about 150 members of the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China , which is convened between plenary sessions of the NPC. It has the constitutional authority to modify legislation within limits set by...

    , or Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China
    Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China
    The Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China is a committee consisting of the top leadership of the Communist Party of China, whose membership varies between 5 and 9 people. The inner workings of the PSC are not well known, although it is believed that decisions of the PSC are...

  • Iceland
    Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

    : see Standing committee (Iceland)
  • India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

    : see Standing committee (India)
    Standing committee (India)
    In the Parliament of India, there are two types of Parliamentary Committee, the Standing Committee and the Ad hoc Committee. The work done by the Indian Parliament is not only voluminous but also of a complex nature, hence a good deal of its work is carried out in these Parliamentary...

  • United Kingdom
    United Kingdom
    The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

    : see Public bill committee
  • United States
    United States
    The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

    : see Standing committee (United States Congress)

Parliamentary committees

In the parliamentary procedure
Parliamentary procedure
Parliamentary procedure is the body of rules, ethics, and customs governing meetings and other operations of clubs, organizations, legislative bodies, and other deliberative assemblies...

 take part:
  • Fiscal committee, if the bill
    Bill (proposed law)
    A bill is a proposed law under consideration by a legislature. A bill does not become law until it is passed by the legislature and, in most cases, approved by the executive. Once a bill has been enacted into law, it is called an act or a statute....

     contains an appropriation
    Appropriation is the act of taking possession of or assigning purpose to properties or ideas. The word appropriation was first used by a Russian theorist named Bakhtin to describe a holistic language theory. The Russian word for appropriation is prisvoenie, which directly translated means ‘to make...

     or has financial implications for the state or federation.
  • Policy committee. Appropriate committee to the subject matter.
  • Rules committee. The rules committee of the House
    United States House of Representatives
    The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

     assigns each bill to a policy committee.

See also

  • Committee of the Whole
    Committee of the Whole
    A Committee of the Whole is a device in which a legislative body or other deliberative assembly is considered one large committee. All members of the legislative body are members of such a committee...

  • List of Committees of the United Kingdom Parliament
  • List of IEC Technical Committees
  • List of the Czech Republic Senate committees
  • Quorum
    A quorum is the minimum number of members of a deliberative assembly necessary to conduct the business of that group...

  • Standing Committees of the European Parliament
    Standing Committees of the European Parliament
    The Committees of the European Parliament are designed to aid the European Commission in initiating legislation.Standing Committees are made up of Members of the European Parliament , who are directly elected to the seats in the European Parliament by the electorate. Each Committee has a Chairman...

  • United States Congressional committee
    United States Congressional committee
    A congressional committee is a legislative sub-organization in the United States Congress that handles a specific duty . Committee membership enables members to develop specialized knowledge of the matters under their jurisdiction...

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