Week ahead: Pentagon budget arrives

One thing the budget will not do is deal with sequestration cuts in 2014, as Pentagon officials have said the budget has been set at pre-sequester levels.

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That’s because Obama’s budget will reverse sequestration through a mix of tax increases and a lower level of spending cuts, which aren’t expected to hit the Defense budget until the out years.

One day after the budget is released, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will make his first appearance on Capitol Hill as Pentagon chief. Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey will be testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on the budget request.

The president’s budget release typically starts off a packed schedule of budget posture hearings, but this year those hearings are already underway. The House and Senate Armed Services panels decided to start them before the request so they wouldn’t have to push back markups for the Defense authorization bill more than a couple of weeks.

As a result, the Hagel hearing is just one in a busy schedule this week as Congress hits the ground running after its two-week spring recess.

One hearing in particular has taken on added significance because of the tense situation in North Korea.

Adm. Samuel Locklear, head of U.S. Pacific Command, and Gen. James Thurman, chief of U.S. Forces Korea, are slated to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

While that hearing has been scheduled for more than a month and is supposed to be focused on the budget, the tense situation in North Korea will clearly be the prime topic.

As Hagel and Dempsey are testifying on Thursday morning, there will be a flurry of defense-related activity throughout the Capitol.

The House Intelligence Committee is holding its annual worldwide threats hearing, in which the administration’s top intelligence and counterterrorism officials testify in an open setting.

U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford will be testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, one day after the panel receives a classified briefing on the situation in Syria.

And the Senate Armed Services Committee will bring in Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove for his confirmation hearing to become commander of U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. Breedlove was nominated after Gen. John Allen turned down the job and decided to retire.

The Senate Armed Services Emerging Threats subpanel is also holding a hearing on counterterrorism threats Tuesday, where U.S. Special Operations Command chief Adm. William McRaven will be among the witnesses.

Capping off the busy week on Friday, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh will be appearing before the House Armed Services panel. They will face tough questions on a range of topics, from potential cuts to the Air Guard to a recent sexual assault case in Italy where a guilty verdict was thrown out.