Pentagon urges delay in 'devastating' $57 billion budget cuts
WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The Pentagon's civilian and military leaders warned in dire terms on Tuesday that US$46 billion (S$57 billion) in budget cuts due to go into effect in two weeks would erode the nation's ability to go to war and appealed to Congress to delay the reductions.
The automatic, across-the-board cuts will force the Pentagon to put most of its 800,000 civilian employees on unpaid leave for 22 days, slash ship and aircraft maintenance and curtail training, Deputy Defence Secretary Ashton Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"These devastating events are no longer distant problems. The wolf is at the door," Mr Carter said as he and the military chiefs appealed for Congress to take action to delay the cuts known as sequestration from taking effect beginning March 1.
For months, Pentagon officials have been painting a doomsday scenario if Congress does not come up with a replacement for the sequester. The cuts are already law, but when Congress enacted them in August 2011, lawmakers never intended for them to happen. The thinking was that they would be so abhorrent that Democrats and Republicans would come up with an alternative budget-cutting plan.