WASHINGTON, March 1 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Friday used his first press conference since taking office to detail the effects of the automatic federal spending cuts, known as the sequestration, on his department.
According to Hagel, soldier and marine training, Air Force flying hours and Navy steaming days are being curtailed because of the 47 billion dollars in spending cuts the Pentagon must make before Sept. 30, 2013, the end of the current fiscal year.
The sequestration would take effect on Friday, as Republicans and the White House have failed to stop it.
The uncertainty caused by the sequestration "puts at risk our ability to effectively fulfill all of our missions," warned Hagel, adding that the Pentagon would have to adjust to the fiscal realities.
Starting in April, the Navy will gradually stand down at least four air wings, and "effective immediately, Air Force flying hours will be cut back," said Hagel.
The Army will curtail training for all units except those deploying to Afghanistan, he said, noting that this means an end to training for nearly 80 percent of Army operational units.
"Later this month, we intend to issue preliminary notifications to thousands of civilian employees who will be furloughed," Hagel added. The Defense Department has about 800,000 civilian employees, and the vast majority of them face losing 20 percent of their pay through the end of September.
The sequestration comes on top of 487 billion dollars in defense budget cuts the Pentagon has agreed to under the Budget Control Act.
In anticipation of the sequester, in January the department began to slow spending. The aircraft carrier USS Harry Truman did not deploy to the Gulf region as scheduled, and the department looked to hiring freezes and layoffs of temporary and term employees. The service chiefs announced cuts to facilities maintenance and contract delays.
Hagel said that he will continue to work with Congress to help resolve the fiscal uncertainty. "Specifically, we need a balanced deficit reduction plan that leads to an end to sequestration," he stressed.