Week ahead: Congress sets sights, again, on sequestration

Under sequestration, the Pentagon is staring down $500 billion in mandatory spending cuts. The cuts began in March and would reduce Pentagon spending by $52 billion next year.

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel publicly questioned whether Congress could come up with a plan to stave off sequestration amid the bitterly partisan environment on Capitol Hill.

"I don't know if a compromise can be reached,” he told reporters at the Pentagon earlier this month.

The House defense panel has held several high-profile hearings on sequestration's impact on national security since the cuts went into effect.

Earlier this month, House Armed Services Committee member Randy Forbes (R-Va.) requested the Pentagon provide a classified briefing on the potential national security risks facing the United States due to sequestration.

"If the raw facts about the imminent and dangerous fissures in our nation’s ability to protect its citizens did not create pause in members of Congress, I’m not sure what would," Forbes told The Hill at the time.

Later that day, members of the panel's sea power subcommittee will hear testimony from the congressional budget and research offices on the Navy's attempt to revamp its fleet.

The shipbuilding strategy has the fleet topping out at 300 warships over the next 5 years, with a total of 66 submarines, 11 aircraft carriers and 32 amphibious landing ships as part of that fleet.

But that number could drop if anticipated funding levels set by Congress fall off track, particularly due to budget cuts under sequestration.

The following day, House Foreign Affairs Committee members will hear from top U.S. diplomats on the White House's way ahead in Egypt.

The hearing will be the first held since President Obama suspended millions in military aid and equipment to the country.

The White House shelved multibillion-dollar sales of F-16 fighter jets, M1 Abrams tanks and Apache attack helicopters to Cairo as part of the administration's "recalibration" of U.S.-Egyptian ties earlier this month.

The decision was designed to send "a pretty clear message" to the Egyptian interim government that it must end its violent crackdown on opposition forces and quiet the political turmoil in the country, a White House official said shortly after the suspension of the weapon sales.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said President Obama's decision to suspend military aid to the country would not help the government reach that goal.

The decades-long military relationship between Washington and Cairo "led the U.S. to wrongly believe that Egypt would always follow its policies and aims," Fahmy said this month.