Week Ahead:Senate tackles Pentagon spending bill

Durbin, the Democratic majority whip, assumed leadership of the powerful Appropriations subcommittee on Defense in January after the death of longtime chairman, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii). 

The upper chamber’s markup of the Defense bill is not expected to be as contentious as the debate that ensued in the House over the Pentagon budget proposal. 

In the lower chamber, debate raged over a raft of GOP amendments designed to address several hot-button issues, from domestic surveillance programs to increasing military aid to Egypt and Syria. 

Senate appropriators will likely approve a top line for Defense spending near the $512.3 billion figure approved by their counterparts in the House earlier this year. 

However, a number of issues still face appropriators in both chambers as they gear up for the eventual conference committee debates over the DOD package after the August recess. 

One issue that might rankle the conference is the amount of funding for the war in Afghanistan. 

House appropriators included $85.8 billion for funding the war in Afghanistan, a $5 billion increase from the Pentagon’s request, in their Defense bill. 

But House members ended up stripping more than $3.5 billion from that amount when the committee bill reached the full chamber. The $1.5 billion left in the House Defense appropriations bill will go toward refitting units in the National Guard. 

Aside from Pentagon spending, lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold confirmation hearings next week for the White House's nominees to head up Strategic Command and U.S. Forces in Korea. 

The administration has tapped Adm. Cecil Haney for chief of Strategic Command, while Army Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti has been nominated as the head of U.S. Forces Korea. Both men will testify before the committee on Tuesday. 

On the House side, Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James Winnefeld will update the House Armed Services panel on Thursday about the Pentagon's ongoing strategic review. 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the review of the plan in March in order to account for the across-the-board cuts included under sequestration. 

With sequestration, $41 billion will be cut in 2013 and $500 billion could be reduced in the next decade, which senior military leaders have said would require the Pentagon to change its new strategy and scale back ambitions.

Congress expected the review, known inside the Pentagon as the Strategic Choices and Management Review, to be completed by June. However, several delays in the ongoing analysis work have prevented DOD officials from finalizing the review's findings.