The tough confirmation battle awaiting Chuck Hagel, who will be nominated this afternoon to become the next secretary of Defense, will focus on his controversial comments on Israel, Iran, gays and potential budget cuts. But those close to the process say he is also likely to be the first nominee to face detailed questions on the military's $15 billion annual energy addiction.
The Senate Armed Services Committee is still reeling from a high-profile, seven-month-long battle over the Navy's biofuels program, which culminated in two floor votes supporting the program last month. And Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the committee's new ranking member and author of one of the controversial provisions to limit the Navy's use of biofuels, has already vowed to keep the pressure on the military's green programs.
Energy will "absolutely" come up during the confirmation hearings, one Democratic Senate aide said. Indeed, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) has in recent years made a point of raising the issue during nearly every committee hearing with top officials and officers.
But although the issue may get top political billing this time around, many in the defense world are skeptical that energy programs will make their way onto the crowded desk of the next Defense secretary -- whoever that might be.