Pentagon ordered to begin steps to offset impact of looming defense cuts
Speaking at a Pentagon news conference, Panetta acknowledged for the first time that across-the-board cuts he had said would be "devastating" to national security were increasingly possible and "we simply cannot sit back now and not be prepared for the worst."
The Pentagon is facing some $500 billion in cuts to defense spending over the next decade under a procedure known as sequestration. That comes on top of $487 billion in cuts over a decade that the department began implementing last fiscal year.
The new round of cuts, ordered by Congress as part of the effort to reduce the massive US deficit, were due to go into effect on Jan. 2, but lawmakers reached a deal on New Year's Day delaying the spending reductions until March 1.
The White House had told the Pentagon until recently not to plan for the across-the-board budget cuts. Those cuts had been approved by the Obama administration and Congress to try to force lawmakers to reach a compromise spending deal. But they were never expected to take effect because they hit almost everything equally, regardless of strategic importance.
Under the new law, the Pentagon faces $45 billion in cuts this year unless Congress can agree on an alternative package of spending reductions. Analysts say that even if Congress approves an
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