OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Pentagon details deep sequester cuts

In an effort to highlight the effect the cuts are having on the military, Hagel said the Pentagon will begin submitting two versions of its annual budget plan to the White House over the next four years, beginning in 2015.

The Pentagon released its sequester plan ahead of a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the department's plans to deal with the across-the-board cuts.

Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James Winnefeld will defend the department's sequester plan during the hearing, scheduled for Thursday.

The potential cuts could used by defense-minded lawmakers to try and convince their colleagues to avert the sequester. But thus far there’s been little movement in Congress to try to avert the cuts.

President Obama told Senate Democrats on Wednesday that any reductions to the defense sequester would have to be coupled with equal reductions in cuts to domestic discretionary programs. 

McKeon: ‘No feeling of hopefulness’: House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) sounded a pessimistic note on Wednesday over the Pentagon’s budget proposal after getting briefed on the plans.

“I left with no feeling of hopefulness,” McKeon told The Hill Wednesday.

In his public statement in response to the review, McKeon said that the potential cuts made clear that sequestration will “cause catastrophic readiness shortfalls.”

He also criticized it as a “budget-driven” exercise that didn’t address the underlying strategy issues that would result from a smaller budget.

House Armed Services ranking member Adam SmithAdam SmithPentagon urges Congress to move 6M for missile defense Pass the Protecting Data at the Border Act Overnight Defense: Mattis makes surprise visit to Afghanistan | Army general deploys to Puerto Rico to oversee hurricane relief | Senate panel advances Joint Chiefs chair's nomination MORE (D-Wash.), meanwhile, chastised lawmakers over the review, saying that Congress was “abdicating its constitutional responsibility to responsibly fund the military” by allowing sequestration to continue.

Smith called for Congress to lift the sequestration cuts on the military without replacing them, a plan that defense hawks might support but would not pass muster with the fiscal hawks in Congress.

Besides McKeon and Smith, there were few statements coming from lawmakers in reaction to the Pentagon's potential cuts.

Obama to meet with lawmakers on NSA: President Obama will be meeting with key lawmakers on both sides of the National Security Agency debate at the White House on Thursday to discuss its surveillance programs, according to a White House official.

The meeting is occurring as the Obama administration is trying to ease growing concern from lawmakers about the reach of the telephone and Internet surveillance programs.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper de-classified new documents about the phone surveillance activities on Wednesday, and NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander will answer lawmakers’ questions at a classified briefing Thursday on Capitol Hill.

Obama addressed the NSA programs at his meeting with Senate Democrats on Wednesday, saying that he would address lawmakers’ concerns.

"He’s willing to get together with members who are concerned about it and try to talk about a potential way forward,” said Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Murphy faces criticism from GOP challenger over fundraising email Democrat: Republicans who believe in more gun control afraid of being 'politically punished' MORE (D-Conn.).

The group of lawmakers heading to the White House includes Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHouse bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Senate confirms No. 2 spot at HHS, days after Price resigns Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax CEO faces outraged lawmakers | Dem presses voting machine makers on cyber defense | Yahoo says 3 billion accounts affected by 2013 breach MORE (D-Ore.) and Mark UdallMark UdallDemocratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Gorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' MORE (D-Colo.), who have been outspoken critics recently of the NSA programs, as well as Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGun proposal picks up GOP support Gingrich: Banning rapid fire gun modification is ‘common sense’ House bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance MORE (D-Calif.) and ranking member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.).

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGun proposal picks up GOP support Durbin: I had 'nothing to do' with Curbelo snub Republicans jockey for position on immigration MORE (D-Ill.) will also attend, as will House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) and Rep. Jim SensenbrennerJames SensenbrennerHouse panel to hold hearing on online sex trafficking next week Lawmakers grapple with warrantless wiretapping program House panel strikes deal on surveillance reforms MORE Jr. (R-Wis.), the original author of the Patriot Act.

Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashWatchdog: Haley violated federal law by retweeting Trump endorsement House votes to crack down on undocumented immigrants with gang ties GOP lawmaker taunts House conservatives: Trump’s base is not ‘small faction of obstructionists’ MORE (R-Mich.), who authored last week’s amendment to curb the NSA’s powers that narrowly failed, does not appear to be invited.

McCain threatens funds for new Marine One: One lawmaker is threatening to clip the wings of the Pentagon's latest Marine One replacement program before it gets off the ground.

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainRubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts The VA's woes cannot be pinned on any singular administration Overnight Defense: Mattis offers support for Iran deal | McCain blocks nominees over Afghanistan strategy | Trump, Tillerson spilt raises new questions about N. Korea policy MORE (R-Ariz.) vowed "to keep very close watch" on how the Navy proceeds with its plans to select a manufacturer to build the prototype helicopter, known as the VXX.

"We can cut off funding if we think [the selection] is unsatisfactory, before it gets into production," McCain said.

Pentagon leaders plan to buy 21 new presidential helicopters, and expect to have the first aircraft in the field by 2020, according to Navy spokeswoman Capt. Cate Mueller.

She declined to comment on the total anticipated price tag.

The Pentagon's last attempt to build a VXX prototype failed due to skyrocketing costs from a slew of design requirements added by Department of Defense and White House officials.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates pulled the plug on the program in 2009, after congressional scrutiny over the numerous delays and cost increases reached a fever pitch on Capitol Hill.

At the time of Gates's cancellation, program engineers were only able to build nine aircraft after spending billions in taxpayer dollars.

That said, McCain noted the lack of competition on the VXX program could be a deal breaker, and argued the Navy's decision reflects the service's "abysmal" record in getting a Marine One replacement in the skies.

"The last [attempt] ended up being more expensive than Air Force One," he said, referring to the president’s personal plane.

In Case You Missed It:

— Rep. Smith: Just ditch sequestration

— Playboy, Penthouse pulled from military shelves

— Lawmakers summoned to classified NSA meeting

— Kerry in Pakistan to talk drone strikes

— Special ops commander briefs panel on Benghazi

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