Week ahead: Pentagon, Congress begin budget battle

The Pentagon will unveil its 2015 budget proposal this week, beginning a contentious fight with Capitol Hill over the military’s spending priorities.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel previewed the budget last week, detailing the Pentagon’s plans to reduce the size of the Army, cut benefits for troops and retire the A-10 “Warthog” fleet.

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All of those proposals face major resistance in Congress.

“We live in an ever increasingly dangerous world and this budget is out of touch with reality,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said after the preview was released.

The Pentagon said that the 2015 budget would meet the spending caps of $496 billion that were passed in last year’s budget act. But the department will also provide an additional $26 billion that it would spend mostly on readiness if Congress provided the money, which would be tied to extra spending for domestic programs.

Lawmakers are already vowing to make changes to the Pentagon’s proposed budget, including reversing proposed cuts to benefits, the A-10 and the Army National Guard.

The budget request will include a new round of base closures — a non-starter for both parties in recent years.

“Many of the cuts that they are proposing will not be enacted. It’s obvious these cuts are ignoring the lessons of history,” McCain said on Tuesday.

The day after the budget is released, Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey will begin defending the blueprint on Capitol Hill.

The Pentagon leaders will be testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday and the Senate Armed Services panel on Thursday.

The hearings with Hagel and Dempsey will be primarily focused on the budget, but lawmakers will be sure to delve into other controversial topics such as Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and the recent turmoil in Ukraine.

Hagel and Dempsey’s hearings mark the official start to a flurry of budget hearings on Capitol Hill.

The commanders of U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Strategic Command will be testifying ahead of Hagel and Dempsey on Tuesday in the House Armed Services Committee, just hours after the budget is released.

The House panel will also have the chiefs of U.S. Central Command and Africa Command appearing before the committee on Wednesday.

Those same two commanders will be on the Senate side of the Capitol to speak to the Armed Services Committee on Thursday, effectively trading places with Hagel and Dempsey.

The Senate panel will also hold a hearing on the U.S. nuclear force posture on Wednesday afternoon.

There are also a few hearings unrelated to the budget this week.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday plans to examine the terror threat in the Middle East spilling over from Syria.

The House Foreign Affairs panel will hold a hearing on U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine on Thursday, and it will probe Iran’s global terrorism connections in a Tuesday hearing.