Week ahead: Budget hearings kick into gear

The Pentagon submitted a budget to Congress that was $52 billion above the spending caps under sequestration, which has drawn criticisms from some lawmakers who want to know what will get cut if sequestration is not averted.

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That fight, however, is not expected to play out in Congress immediately. The House and Senate Defense authorization bills are also expected to be set at to pre-sequester levels for 2014, as the House and Senate budgets that passed last month did.

There’s still plenty that Congress and the Pentagon will argue about, from the department’s request for new base closures to reductions in the missile defense budget topline.

The hearings begin Tuesday morning with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and Army Secretary John McHugh, who will be testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee. The pair will return to appear before the House Armed Services panel on Thursday.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert and Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos will testify before the Senate Armed Services panel on Thursday.

Many of the more contentious hearings will occur in subcommittees this week. The Senate Armed Services Readiness subpanel will hold a hearing on base closures on Wednesday, which has quickly run into stiff congressional opposition.

The Pentagon says that it’s become necessary to close some bases to reduce excess infrastructure and cut costs, but lawmakers don’t want bases in their own districts to close, and they dispute the Pentagon’s claims of savings.

There will be Senate subcommittee hearings Wednesday on military aircraft, on the F-35 program manager and on National Guard and Reserve personnel.

On the House side, there will be a trio of House Armed Services hearings Wednesday covering Navy and Air Force acquisitions, Air Force readiness and veteran employment.

The committee will look at both space programs and Afghan women in two House subcommittee hearings Thursday.

The House Appropriations Defense subcommittee has only one public hearing this week, on Wednesday, to examine defense health programs. The panel is also holding a closed hearing with Gen. David Rodriguez, commander of U.S. Africa Command.

While there will be plenty of activity on Capitol Hill, Hagel will be halfway around the world. The Defense secretary is traveling this week to Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.