The week ahead: Top commander to brief Congress on Afghanistan

Lawmakers in both chambers are likely to press Allen on the impact of last week’s alleged shooting of 16 Afghan civilians by a U.S. Army solider. The unprovoked attack came after Afghans lashed out against American and NATO forces over the accidental mass burning of Qurans by U.S. troops. The shootings have prompted opponents of the Afghan war to push for an early withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country.

While the White House and the Pentagon have remained committed to the 2014 deadline set by President Obama, Congress is increasingly split on whether an early pullout is the best option. Many lawmakers have said the decision on leaving Afghanistan should be based on advice from commanders on the ground.

Aside from Afghanistan, defense legislators in the House will be looking for answers on the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). Vice Adm. David Venlet, head of the F-35 program, and acting DOD acquisition chief Frank Kendall will talk JSF on Tuesday with members of the Armed Services subcommittee on Air and Land Forces.

Recent reports claim the JSF — considered the most expensive acquisition program in Pentagon history — is currently $150 billion over budget, based on initial cost estimates. That cost growth has prompted a key American ally to float the possibility of bailing out of the program. Canadian Associate Defense Minister Julian Fantino on Tuesday said his country might pull the plug on its portion of the multimillion-dollar project.

Head of Cyber Command Gen. Keith Alexander will testify before the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday alongside former senior Senate aide and current DOD chief of Global Strategic Affairs Madelyn Creedon. Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the Pentagon is nowhere near satisfied with its ability to wage a cyber-war against China and other potential enemies around the world.

A report by the congressionally mandated U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission claims Beijing is pulling ahead of the United States in its ability to conduct a cyber-war. The Chinese military has conducted multiple exercises focusing on “joint information offensive and defensive operations” geared toward taking out communications command-and-control systems, according to the commission’s findings, reported by The Washington Post.

Army Secretary John McHugh and Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno are on the Senate side, testifying before defense appropriators from the upper chamber on Wednesday. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and chief of staff Gen. Norton Schwartz go before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.