The week ahead: Congress puts its mark on Defense budget

The House Appropriations Defense subcommittee is also marking up its defense spending bill on Tuesday, but that markup is conducted behind closed doors — which means it won’t have the fireworks.

The Armed Services markup, on the other hand, is expected to be filled with a host of contentious issues and amendments to be debated publicly, starting with just how big the budget itself will be.

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McKeon’s bill will put the Pentagon’s budget at $554 billion, which is $8 billion above the spending caps set by the Budget Control Act and about $3.7 billion above the Pentagon’s requested budget, a figure that the Senate is expected to mark to.

The subcommittees submitted their markups before the recess, previewing many of the biggest fights that are expected this week.

Missile defense is always one of the issues that receives a raucous debate, and this year Republicans have slammed President Obama over reports that the administration is considering reducing its nuclear stockpile.

The committee’s Republicans also raised eyebrows over a proposal included in the bill to establish a third missile interceptor site on the East Coast by 2015.

In the subcommittee markup, Strategic Forces subcommittee ranking member Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) alluded to the fight ahead.

“There are obviously things that we have a little bit of debate to do on,” she said. “That’s not for today — that will be for the future.”

The issue that nearly derailed last year’s bill, the detention of terror suspects, should return again this year.

The committee’s ranking member, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), introduced a bill earlier this year that would roll back provisions allowing military detention of U.S. citizens from both last year’s bill and from the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force agreement signed after 9/11. He’s expected to offer amendments in the spirit of his bill at the markup.

A range of other issues, from the restoration of the Global Hawk Block 30 drones to social issues in the military, will likely come up during Wednesday’s markup.

Meanwhile, the Senate Armed Services Committee, which will mark up its authorization bill later this month, is reaching the tail end of its posture hearings this week.

Expect Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has been a vocal critic of the F-35 fighter program, to have some pointed questions for Vice Adm. David Venlet, executive officer of the F-35 program. Venlet is one of three Pentagon officials testifying on tactical aircraft programs at a Tuesday hearing.

The Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee has two closed hearings on the Pacific and Central commands scheduled, and the Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on the future of NATO after the Chicago summit later this month.