Earlier this week Army chief of staff Gen. Ray Odierno addressed what impact further budget cuts could have on the Armed Forces, and on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel weighed in on the subject. Hagel outlined a number of changes ranging from historic low troop levels to the potential for eliminating some fighter jet squadrons. This marked the first time Hagel has provided specific details on how the military may change should sequester-related cuts continue, Military Times reports.
No official changes
Although Hagel laid out some cutbacks the Pentagon will have to make, he assured reporters that no official decisions have been made. Still, some of the cuts may be significant. For instance, military pay and benefits could see substantial changes, including reduced housing allowances and smaller cost-of-living adjustments for troops stationed overseas. Despite the unwelcome budget cuts, Hagel said he may not have any choice.
"Many will object to these ideas – and I want to be clear that we are not announcing any compensation changes today," Hagel told the press. "But a sequester-level scenario would compel us to consider these changes because there would be no realistic alternative that did not pose unacceptable risk to national security."
Preparedness will take hit
One of the most significant problems facing Pentagon should the $500 billion in cuts continue is what they could mean for readiness. Having to cut troops would bring the Armed Forces back to levels it hasn't seen since the 1940s, according to The Associated Press. Additionally, Hagel warned that losing Navy carrier strike groups and grounding some Air Force squadrons could hamstring the military's ability to respond internationally.
Chance for relief
These cuts are not inevitable, and legislators are reportedly working on a plan to help the Pentagon, and other government agencies, avoid them for the time being. On Wednesday, lawmakers signaled they were open to a temporary one-year plan to avoid sequestration, according to The Huffington Post.
"Obviously our preference is to find an agreement to replace the whole thing, but given the current refusal by Republicans to negotiate, it is more likely that we would try and negotiate a shorter term replacement for the sequester," Rep. Chris Van Hollen told the news source.
This wouldn't be the first time Congress has passed a temporary solution. In 2012, they crafted a short-term bill that allowed them several extra months to work on combating the deficit.