WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep-elect Tom Cotton wants to serve on a committee that handles national security when the 113th Congress opens in January.

"The most important role of the federal government is national security," the Republican from Dardanelle said Tuesday.

Ideally, Cotton would prefer serving on two committees. The other would have a domestic focus.

Cotton defeated Democrat Gene Jeffress in the Nov. 6 general election to claim the 4th District congressional seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott.

Newly elected members of Congress aren’t expected to get their committee assignments until next month, but the jockeying for seats has begun as Cotton and more than 75 other Republicans and Democrats in the incoming House freshman class arrived Tuesday for orientation.

Cotton, who earned a law degree at Harvard University, is an Army combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. He said he is concerned that America’s standing in the world has diminished, emboldening adversaries in Asia and the Middle East.

When it comes to domestic affairs, Cotton said he is likely to coordinate his committee choice with the rest of Arkansas’ House delegation so that they are not serving on the same committees.

Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, serves on the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, on Appropriations and Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, serves on Judiciary.

Cotton said he could see himself serving on the Energy and Commerce Committee where Ross now serves.

In the meantime, Cotton has begun assembling his congressional staff. He said Doug Coutts, who served as his campaign manager, will be his chief of staff. The two served together in The Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery in 2007.

Cotton is also expected to hire Lesley Nelms as his district director. She served a similar role in his campaign.