U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is preparing to unveil a plan to cut hundreds of billions of dollars in military spending, senior officials said. Pictured at Nov. 15 Senate hearing. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo
WASHINGTON, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is preparing to unveil a plan to cut hundreds of billions of dollars in military spending, senior officials said.
Panetta's strategy for reducing the size of the military will make plain the Pentagon will no longer have the ability to fight two sustained ground wars at the same time, The New York Times reported.
Rather, the Times said, Panetta, who is to outline his plan at a news conference this week, is expected to say the military will be big enough to fight and win one major conflict and to "spoil" ambitions of another adversary elsewhere in the world while carrying out smaller operations such as disaster relief or enforcing a no-fly zone.
Possible cutbacks in nearly every key area of military spending are being deliberated by Pentagon officials, including nuclear weapons, warships, combat aircraft, salaries and retirement and health benefits, the Times said. Panetta is also considering how much to scale back ground forces now that the war in Iraq has ended and the one in Afghanistan is nearing its end.
The White House and the Pentagon agreed in the summer to $450 billion in Defense cutbacks, about 8 percent of the department's base budget, over the course of a decade, and there's broad consensus on that amount across the political spectrum.
But the prospect of $500 billion in additional cutbacks that could be made if Congress approves has generated considerable debate, with Panetta and some hawks warning cutting the Pentagon budget nearly $1 trillion, about 17 percent, would pose a threat to national security.