Military service chiefs outlined spending cuts, including a 30% reduction in operating costs for Army posts, as part of their plans to deal with uncertainty over the size of the federal budget, letters released Wednesday show.
The Pentagon would need to slash $500 billion over the next decade if Congress and the White House cannot reach a deal to bring down the nation's debt by March. In addition, the Pentagon would take an $11 billion cut if its 2013 budget is not approved by late March.
Last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that the cuts would "hollow" out the military rendering it unprepared for conflicts.
On Wednesday, in letters issued to commanders, the armed services warned of lean times ahead for the military. To spare units in combat in Afghanistan and those training for deployment, deeper cuts were ordered for other training exercises and a halt was ordered for civilian hiring.
"The fiscal situation and outlook are serious," Army Secretary John McHugh and Gen. Raymond Odierno, the chief of staff, wrote in their letter to commanders. "Our funding is in doubt as we support forward-deployed troops, those training and Wounded Warriors."
To meet the 30% reduction, Army post commanders will have to reduce their heating and lighting costs and cut back on recreation and community services.
If a budget agreement isn't reached, McHugh and Odierno wrote, furloughs of civilian employees are likely.
Navy and Air Force leaders also ordered hiring freezes and suspension of conferences and non-essential travel.
The Air Force, facing a $1.8 billion shortfall for its operations overseas, called for other reductions. One, familiar to sports fans, would be curtailing flyovers before games.
Beyond the automatic budget cuts, the Pentagon is planning to reduce its budgets by $487 billion over the next 10 years. Those reductions envision thinning the ranks of the Army and Marine Corps by about 100,000 troops.
The Pentagon's $535 billion budget for the current year has not yet been approved by Congress. The Pentagon would take an $11 billion cut if its 2013 budget is not approved by late March, Panetta said last week.