By MARCUS WEISGERBER
WASHINGTON — US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel huddled with his top military and civilian leaders Thursday as the Defense Department puts the finishing touches on its 2015 budget proposal.
Senior defense officials also discussed the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said during a briefing Thursday.
Secretary of State John Kerry also attended the meeting to offer “his perspectives on the global challenges confronting both the Department of State and the Department of Defense,” Kirby said.
It was the fifth time over the past year Hagel has conducted a “leadership council” with his undersecretaries, the service secretaries, chiefs and combatant commanders.
“He relies on this format to seek views of both defense policymakers and commanders in the field and the toughest issues that are facing our future,” Kirby said.
“[O]ne of the reasons he holds those senior leadership councils is to get those opinions to have a frank and honest discussion,” he said. “And having just come from the meeting myself, I can tell you it was very frank and honest and open and he values those opinions.”
Asked when the 2015 budget release would happen, Kirby referred specifics to the White House Office of Management and Budget, but said, “the budget is “not complete but it’s certainly near complete. We’re closing in on it very, very soon — weeks.”
While the release date has not been announced, sources expect the budget to head to Congress in late February.