U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday
warned of dire consequences for the military under the automatic budget cuts,
known as sequestration, saying it will force the Pentagon to choose between a
decade-long " modernization holiday" and a much smaller force.
Hagel made the remarks during a Pentagon press briefing outlining a Strategic Choices Management Review, which has been presented to Congress earlier.
According to Hagel, to preserve the technological edge in weapons, the Army would shrink to as few as 380,000 soldiers and the Marine Corps to 150,000 members. The Navy would have fewer aircraft carriers and Air Force fewer bombers.
"This strategic choice would result in a force that would be technologically dominant, but would be much smaller and able to go fewer places and do fewer things, especially if crises occurred at the same time in different regions of the world," Hagel said.
The Pentagon currently plans to reduce the Army to about 490,000 soldiers, and Marine Corps to 182,000.
If the Pentagon chooses to keep the troops, it would have fewer cutting-edge weapons, resulting in the loss of technological advantage, Hagel said.
"Cuts on this scale would, in effect, be a decade-long modernization holiday," Hagel said. "The military could find its equipment and weapons systems -- many of which are already near the end of their service lives -- less effective against more technologically advanced adversaries."
Under the sequestration, the Pentagon is facing continued cuts of at least 50 billion dollars annually through 2023. The Congress could act to reverse the mechanism, if it agrees on programs to cut to make up for the automatic trimming.
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