Lawmakers are likely to home in on healthcare issues with veterans and the VA, particularly as the military plans to cut 100,000 soldiers over the next five years and complete troop drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The question of how to lower the unemployment rate for veterans is likely to be discussed as well.
And of course, with Panetta testifying before Congress, you can also expect questions on other hot-button issues, from Syria to nuclear stockpile reductions. The $500 billion in defense cuts to sequestration are also a prime topic for the hearing, and they are the focus of an event later Wednesday with four top Republicans.
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) are appearing at a Capitol Hill event on sequestration sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation and Foreign Policy Institute. All four have been vocal about the danger of the cuts to U.S. national security.
On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee is holding a markup of the intelligence authorization bill, and is expected to include new legislation to curb leaks of classified information.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and her House counterpart, Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), have been working together to craft the new laws. Tuesday’s markup is closed to the public.
The House Oversight national security subcommittee will be holding a hearing on problems the Dawood Hospital in Afghanistan on Tuesday. The subcommittee’s Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has accused Pentagon officials of delaying a military investigation into the hospital until after the 2010 midterm elections to protect Obama from bad publicity.
Chaffetz wrote a letter in June to Panetta demanding a response to his allegations. The committee has not released a list of witnesses yet for the hearing.
In addition to the joint session with Panetta and Shinseki, the House Armed Services Committee has three more hearing scheduled for next week: a hearing Tuesday on transitioning the Afghan security forces, one Wednesday on improving military cyber capabilities and a Thursday hearing on civilian workforce requirements at the DOD.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is also holding a hearing Wednesday to examine Iran and terrorism, which will likely delve into allegations that Iran was involved in the recent bombing of a bus in Bulgaria.