As congressional staff continue to pour through the budget documents as they roll in from the Pentagon, we are entering the beginning of the detailed hearings on the services, agencies and their budget requests.
On Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee hosts Gen. James Mattis, head of Central Command, and Adm. Eric Olson, head of Special Operations Command. Expect questions about how rapidly and effectively the ISAF training of Afghan national forces is progressing, a key concern of SASC Chairman Sen. Carl Levin. Half an hour after the SASC gets rolling, the House Armed Services Committee will hold its Navy posture hearing. Expect Chairman Buck McKeon to grill the Navy about its course ahead on the Marines Expeditionary Fighting vehicle and its replacement. Questions are also likely about the SSBN-X and just how the Navy will pay for it and what tradeoffs the service may make as it.tries to contain costs.
Other issues likely to be raised: just how a Continuing Resolution will affect the service; Marine Corps end-strength and force structure assessment; implications of scratching a carrier air-wing; sea-based missile defense requirements; Mayport carrier move; just what exactly "probation" means for the F-35B; and -- maybe -- the F136 engine for Joint Strike Fighter.
On Thursday, the SASC will mull the nomination of Army Gen. Martin Dempsey to serve as Army Chief of Staff. Given Defense Secretary Robert Gates' speech at West Point and lawmakers worries about coming personnel reductions, Dempsey is sure to get questions how the Army should restructure and train for the future.