The week ahead: Panetta back for more on Capitol Hill

Panetta did not mince words about the three-day gantlet of budget hearings he and Dempsey testified at two weeks ago when the budget was first released.

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Speaking to airmen in Louisiana, Panetta’s description of his experience answering questions before Congress began with an expletive.

“[Expletive], I think I should get some kind of award for going through that crap,” Panetta said at the town-hall event earlier this month. “I told Gen. Dempsey I need a new combat badge for going to Capitol Hill — with clusters.”

While it’s unlikely Congress is going to offer Panetta any medals this week, his exchanges with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) could shed light on how the House GOP leadership plans to address the potential $500 billion in defense cuts through sequestration in the GOP budget.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) told The Hill earlier this month that Ryan is unlikely to include his bill, which would reverse the first year of sequestration, in the Republican budget.

A more likely scenario is that Ryan’s budget finds the necessary $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction to turn off the automatic cuts, which would take effect in January 2013 if Congress does not undo the sequester.

President Obama used that tactic in his budget, but the GOP quickly shot down the tax increases that Obama called for to reach the necessary deficit savings.

While Panetta and Dempsey might be the main defense event this week on Capitol Hill, there are numerous other officials appearing on the congressional undercard as the committees start to tackle the meat-and-potatoes process of the defense budget.

In the services, the Air Force heads will testify before the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, the Army will be at the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Defense on Wednesday and the Navy and Marines will appear before the House Appropriations subcommittee on Defense on Thursday.

Hearings on the European, African and Pacific commands, as well as on the science and technology and military personnel budgets, are all also on the docket this week.

Off budget, a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee is examining an issue that went before the Supreme Court on Wednesday: faking military awards.

The Supreme Court case took up the constitutionality of the Stolen Valor Act, passed in 2006, which made it a crime to lie about military honors.

The hearing is titled “Protecting Stolen Valor,” and some in Congress have said they will try to pass an updated version if the Supreme Court overturns the law currently on the books.

On Iran, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton will speak Tuesday on Capitol Hill at an event titled “Iran vs. the West: Is War Inevitable in 2012?” Bolton has pushed for a pre-emptive strike to stop Iran’s nuclear program.