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Panetta: Military cuts to hit 'all 50 states'

The Pentagon announced a new plan that will streamline U.S. forces, look at possible base closures and expand cyber warfare capability in order to meet tough budget constraints. NBC's Chris Clackum reports.

The Pentagon proposed budget cuts on Thursday that would slash the size of the U.S. military by eliminating thousands of jobs, mothballing ships and trimming air squadrons in an effort to shift strategic direction and reduce spending by $487 billion over a decade.

The funding request, which includes painful cuts for many states, sets the stage for a new struggle between President Barack Obama's administration and Congress over how much the Pentagon should spend on national security as the country tries to curb trillion-dollar budget deficits.

US Army chief 'comfortable' with smaller force as Pentagon prepares cuts


"Make no mistake, the savings we are proposing will impact all 50 states and many districts across America," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told a news conference at the Pentagon. "This will be a test of whether reducing the deficit is about talk or action."

Obama will also ask Congress to approve a new round of domestic base closures, although the timing of this was left vague and there is little chance that lawmakers would agree to this in a presidential election year.

Panetta, previewing plans that will be formally announced next month, said he would ask for a $525 billion base budget for the 2013 fiscal year, the first time since Sept. 11, 2001, that the Pentagon has asked for less than the previous year.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, accompanied by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, outlines the main areas of proposed spending cuts during a news conference at the Pentagon on Thursday.

Panetta said he would seek $88.4 billion to support combat operations in Afghanistan, down from $115 billion in 2012 largely due to the end of the war in Iraq and the withdrawal of U.S. forces there at the end of last year.

Congress requires that the Pentagon cut $487 billion from the defense budget over the next 10 years -- $259 billion will be cut in the first five years (2013 to 2018).

No, Obama isn't actually proposing to cut defense spending

"We believe this is a balanced and complete package," Panetta said, with Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at his side.

Some lawmakers were quick to dispute him.

"Taking us back to a pre-9/11 military force structure places our country in grave danger," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee that will hold hearings on the Pentagon budget plan.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the Panetta plan "ignores the lessons of history." He said it provides for a military that is "too small to respond effectively to events that may unfold over the next few years."

Dempsey, however, said the military is united in its support for the new approach.

"This budget is a first step — it's a down payment — as we transition from an emphasis on today's wars to preparing for future challenges," he said, adding, "This budget does not lead to a military in decline."

While the timelines for each of these cuts vary, NBC News reports where the biggest cuts are coming from for now:

Benefits
Members of the military will receive full pay raises in 2013 and 2014, but their raises will be "limited" beginning in 2015. Health care fees for retirees will increase, including co-pays and deductibles.

Army
Active duty force will decrease by about 75,000 soldiers to 490,000. (For perspective, there are about 565,000 soldiers on active duty today and there were about 480,000 soldiers on active duty on 9/11/01.)

Marine Corps
Active duty force will decrease by about 20,000 Marines to 182,000 total. (For perspective, there are about 202,000 Marines on active duty today, and there were about 173,000 on 9/11/01.)

Air Force
Eliminate six of the 60 Air Force tactical air squadrons, as well as one training squadron.

The Pentagon will eliminate:  27 aging C-5As (leaving behind 52 C-5Ms and 222 C-17s); 65 oldest C-130s (leaving behind 318 C-130s) and they will divest 38 C-27s.

Navy
Retire seven cruisers that have not been updated with ballistic missile defense capabilities or that are in need of significant maintenance. Some fleet support ships will also be retired, and the building of several ships (1 large deck, 1 sub, 2 littoral combat ships, and 8 joint high speed vessels) will all delayed by one year or more.

The defense spending plan is scheduled to be submitted to Congress as part of the administration's full 2013 budget on Feb. 13.

Prominent in the Obama plan is a renewed focus on Asia, where China's rapid military modernization has raised worry in Washington and rattled U.S. allies.

NBC News' Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube as well as Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced his plan for cutting $487 billion from the defense budget over the next 10 years. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

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