Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey hold a news conference at the Pentagon. Topics discussed include the meeting with the Pres. of Afghanistan earlier Thursday, the defense budget and the nomination of Chuck Hagel to replace Sec. Panetta.
Sec. Panetta focused heavily on the upcoming budget cuts under the delayed sequestration plan. The original sequestration was delayed two months as part of a deal to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff." The secretary laid out specific reductions he would have to make if the budget cuts go forward at the beginning of March.
Sec. Panetta said the Department of Defense would begin to take action in the next few weeks to mitigate the budget risks. "We really have no choice but to prepare for the worst," he said. Freezing civilian hiring, delaying contract awards, and delaying facility maintenance are among the options, he noted.
Discussions surrounding these budget cuts are expected to be contentious and to include the debt ceiling, which will be reached at the end of February.