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Report: Hagel to Outline 2015 Budget on Feb. 24


Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will outline the Pentagon's proposed budget for fiscal 2015 on Feb. 24, a week before its official release, according to a news report.

The budget preview will include the department's priorities and challenges for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, Andrea Shalal-Esa and David Alexander of Reuters reported on Wednesday.

The Defense Department's base budget, which excludes war funding, is expected to be about $500 billion -- some $40 billion less than what the department previously budgeted for the next fiscal year. Congress provided partial relief to automatic budget cuts known as sequestration over the next two years, but agencies still face spending reductions.

"Now, will there be cuts across the board?" Hagel said during a press conference last week. "Of course there will. You can't do it any other way. Are there going to be adjustments across the board? Of course. But you must preserve readiness and modernization."

That likely means continued funding for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the Pentagon’s most expensive acquisition effort, estimated last year to cost $391 billion to develop and build 2,457 F-35 Lightning IIs. The fifth-generation, single-engine jet is designed to replace such aircraft as the F-16, A-10, F/A-18 and AV-8B.

Earlier this week at the Singapore air show, Frank Kendall, the Pentagon's top weapons buyer, reportedly said the Lockheed Martin Corp.-made fighter remains the department's top priority. He said it would probably remain so under any budget scenario -- despite its recent problematic performance in testing.

The Obama administration will submit the fiscal 2015 budget to Congress on March 4, the White House's Office of Management and Budget announced last month.

By law, the president's budget is required to be submitted to Congress no later than the first Monday in February, which this year is Feb. 3, according to the Congressional Research Service. In practice, the spending plan isn’t usually released until later.

Last year, for example, the administration didn’t submit a budget request until April — more than two months late — due in part to a political stalemate over automatic cuts known as sequestration.

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