WASHINGTON, D.C. (WAVY) - Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ordered the military to prepare for stiff budget cuts in the coming months.
Although Congress postponed the deadline for sequestration until March, Panetta said he can not wait for lawmakers to resolve budget issues and is skeptical an agreement will be reached before the across-the-board-cuts take effect.
The cuts are estimated to equal about $50 billion.
The Department of Defense is making preparations to reduce America's military presence in the air, at sea and on land. Panetta said Thursday that if the current resolution to delay sequestration is extended for remainder of the fiscal year, the defense budget will be cut by about $11 billion. Sequestration would cut another $18 billion from operations and maintenance accounts with another $11 billion needed to fund operations in Afghanistan.
"We still have an obligation to protect this country. So for that reason I've asked the military services and the other components to immediately begin implementing prudent measures that will help mitigate our budget risks. We really have no choice but to prepare for the worst," Panetta said.
Preparing for the possibility of sequestration during this period of uncertainty means grounding aircraft or at least restricting training flights, postponing scheduled maintenance for naval vessels and delaying certain other defense contracts.
The implications those moves have on Hampton Roads, a region that depends on defense spending for 45 percent of its economy are enormous.
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