He previewed some of the cuts, including a 100,000-troop reduction over the next five years, an end to several weapons programs and a delay in production for the F-35 fighter.
The 2013 budget reflects a military strategy shift that President Obama announced last month, with a greater emphasis on the Navy and Air Force as part of a shift to the Asia-Pacific region.
One thing that won’t be included in the budget is how the Pentagon would deal with nearly $500 billion in automatic cuts through sequestration, which is set to take effect in January 2013 — the middle of the fiscal year.
Todd Harrison, a budget expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said at a preview briefing last Wednesday that the decision to ignore sequestration is a political one, because if the Pentagon announces what would be cut in the scenario, it might make it more likely to happen.
While sequestration is not included explicitly in the 2013 budget, it is expected to come up early and often during Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey’s week on Capitol Hill.
Panetta and Dempsey are slated for back-to-back-to-back hearings on the budget this week: Tuesday in Senate Armed Services, Wednesday in House Armed Services and Thursday in the House Appropriations subcommittee on Defense.
The services are also starting their hearings on the budget, which will continue for several weeks as the House and Senate Armed Services committees gear up for their authorization bills.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos will testify Thursday before House Armed Services, and Army Secretary John McHugh and Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno will appear Friday.
Also on Thursday, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) will appear at an American Enterprise Institute event at the Capitol on the budget. They both have bills to change the first year of sequestration spending, and have warned about the danger of the cuts to the Pentagon.
Even without the budget, there’s plenty going on in Congress this week on national security and foreign affairs.
On Thursday alone, the Senate Armed Services Committee is holding a hearing on worldwide threats; the House Appropriations subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies is examining the quality of life in the military; the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee is looking at Iran’s ambitions in Latin America; the Senate Homeland Security Committee is taking up cybersecurity legislation; and the House Foreign Affairs Committee is hosting its second day of hearings on the Arab Spring in Egypt.