Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan meets with Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., at the Munich Security Conference in Germany on Feb. 16, 2019. (Lisa Ferdinando/Defense Department)
WASHINGTON — One week before the president’s fiscal 2020 budget is released, lawmakers have a flurry of defense and veterans oversight hearings to prep their work for that looming funding debate.
Among 17 House Appropriations Committee hearings next week are five related to the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs. Meetings with the heads of U.S. European Command and Central Command will be closed, but the others will be open to the public.
Senate Armed Services Committee members will hold their second hearing of the year on problems with military housing, this time summoning top service officials to answer for problems with the available privatized housing.
And lawmakers are expected to continue to press administration officials for more details on which military construction projects could be used to pay for the president’s controversial border wall project. Details on that are expected from the Defense Department in advance of the budget release.
Senate Armed Services — 9:30 a.m. — G-50 Dirksen European and Transportation Command
Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, head of U.S. European Command, and Gen. Stephen Lyons, head of U.S. Transportation Command, will testify before the committee on challenges to their missions.
Wednesday, March 6
House Appropriations — 9:30 a.m. — 2358-A Rayburn Homeland Security overview
The inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security will testify about challenges facing the agency and budget needs for fiscal 2020.
House Homeland Security — 10 a.m. — 310 Cannon Border Security
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will testify before the committee on border security issues.
House Appropriations — 10 a.m. — 2362-B Rayburn VA health records
VA officials will testify before the committee on progress with the transition to new electronic systems for veterans health records.
House and Senate Veterans' Affairs — 10 a.m. — G-50 Dirksen VFW
Officials from the Veterans of Foreign Wars will testify before the committee on their legislative priorities for 2019.
Senate Foreign Relations — 10 a.m. — 419 Dirksen Nominations
The committee will consider the nominations of former Gen. Jon Abizaid to be ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Matthew Tueller to be ambassador to Iraq.
House Oversight — 10 a.m. — 2154 Rayburn PFAS Chemicals
The committee will hear from outside experts on the dangers posed by PFAS chemicals, which have been included in serious water contamination at a host of military bases nationwide.
House Armed Services — 10 a.m. — 2118 Rayburn Nuclear Deterrence
Outside experts will testify on U.S. nuclear deterrence policy and posture.
House Foreign Affairs — 2 p.m. — 2172 Rayburn Yemen
Outside experts will testify on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
Senate Armed Services — 2:30 p.m. — 222 Russell Military Sexual Assault
Military officials and outside experts will testify on military policies on preventing sexual assault in the ranks.
Thursday, March 7
Senate Armed Services — 9:30 a.m. — 216 Hart Military housing
Service secretaries and the joint chiefs will testify before the committee on concerns about the quality of privatized military housing.
House Armed Services — 10 a.m. — 2118 Rayburn Middle East/Africa Security Challenges
Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, and Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command, will testify before the committee on security issues in those regions.
Senate Foreign Relations — 10 a.m. — 419 Dirksen U.S.-Venezuela Relations
State Department officials will testify before the committee on the political situation in Venezuela and the implications for the United States.
House Appropriations — 11 a.m. — HT-2 Capitol VA Mental Health
Department mental health and homeless experts will testify before the committee on their needs for the fiscal 2020 budget.
House Foreign Affairs — 1:30 p.m. — 2172 Rayburn Iran
Outside experts will testify before the committee on the status of U.S. citizens imprisoned in Iran.
House and Senate Veterans' Affairs — 2 pm — G-50 Dirksen Veterans organizations
Officials from AMVETS, PVA, VVA, IAVA, WWP and other veterans groups will testify on their legislative priorities for 2019.
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.
The U.S. Pacific Fleet commander and the Japanese defense minister said close cooperation between their naval forces is more important than ever amid rising tensions over China, North Korea and Russia.