On Tuesday night, veterans groups and defense watchers will once again carefully dissect the president's annual State of the Union speech to Congress for any mention of their policy priorities.

They're likely to be disappointed.

Military and veterans issues haven't commanded much of the annual address since the start of Barack Obama's presidency. On average, just under half of President George W. Bush's speeches dealt with foreign policy and national security. Obama has spent less than a quarter of his time on those topics, a reflection of the winding down of the wars overseas.

Still, lawmakers and lobbyists insist just a passing mention of a topic or bill can boost its legislative profile and redouble its chances of success. White House officials haven't confirmed all the details in this year's speech, but here are some military-themed items to expect to be mentioned — and ignored:

IN: Iraq and Afghanistan

Obama has talked about the service and sacrifice of troops overseas and military families back home in each of his State of the Union addresses.

This year, he'll highlight the end of combat operations in Afghanistan as one of his major foreign policy accomplishments, even as critics question whether that nation is ready to move ahead without more U.S. military support.

The rising threat of Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria will be another discussion point, especially with more than 2,000 U.S. troops again serving in that war-torn region. Obama has taken criticism from Congress both for acting too quickly and too slowly in the region, and will continue to press his justification for American intervention in the region.

OUT: Sequestration

In his speech two years ago, Obama called on Congress to find a solution to the looming spending cuts mandated under the 2011 Budget Control Act, saying the "arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness."

That plea resulted in only a temporary budget work-around to the problem, not the permanent solution lawmakers have been promising for the last three years.

Last year's State of the Union didn't directly mention sequestration, and Obama is more likely to fold concerns about military spending into the larger federal budget fights. The new Republican Congress has promised to make the issue a top defense priority, but offered few new solutions on the issue.

IN: VA reforms

The Veterans Affairs Department's patient wait time scandals made national headlines and forced the resignation of a Cabinet secretary. Even though VA's problems have not commanded the same recent attention as issues like immigration and federal spending, it's still a major focus of lawmakers, who have already passed two veterans-related measures out of the House.

Veterans groups don't expect any major policy changes, but do expect Obama to at least mention some of the reforms already put in place in the wake of those scandals.

OUT: Military pay and benefits

For many outside advocates, the impending report from the Military Retirement and Compensation Modernization Commission is the biggest news of the year, potentially setting in motion major changes to military pay and benefits for years to come.

But Obama's White House has barely mentioned the issue in its regular press briefings, and the report simply may be too service-specific to draw national attention. Administration officials likely will have plenty to say after the report is released next month, but are likely to stay quiet until then.

IN: Cyber terrorism

The recent attacks on Sony Pictures by digital troublemakers and the hacking of U.S. Central Command's social media sites have refocused attention on the issue of cybersecurity, and the president is expected to use that platform to repeat his requests for better legislative action on the topic.

The White House already has announced a summit on cybersecurity and consumer protection at Stanford University in February, with the goal of guiding public- and private-sector efforts to find better protections.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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