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Defense cuts will come at the cost of capability, Pentagon warns

By Larry Shaughnessy, CNN Pentagon Producer
  • President Obama on Wednesday applauded Pentagon efforts to cut military spending
  • Pentagon says it supports Obama's efforts to cut spending, but warns of costs
  • Spokesman: Cuts will mean "reduction to force structure and military capability"
  • Process is unlikely to affect fiscal 2012 budget, Pentagon spokesman says

Washington (CNN) -- A reduction in defense spending desired by the president will only come with cuts to force levels and military capability, the Pentagon's spokesman said Wednesday.

Just moments after President Obama addressed the nation about his ideas for massive deficit reductions, the Department of Defense announced it supported the way the White House wants to go about cutting spending, but warned it comes with a cost.

Obama said in his speech at George Washington University, "Over the last two years, (Defense) Secretary (Robert) Gates has courageously taken on wasteful spending, saving $400 billion in current and future spending. I believe we can do that again."

But Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters on Wednesday that Gates has warned that "significant defense cuts cannot be accomplished without reduction to force structure and military capability."

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"He wants us to continue this effort with the goal of significant additional savings over the coming decade," Morrell told reporters immediately after the president's speech.

Bottom line, Morrell said, the United States needs to start thinking about what military missions it is willing to forgo.

Morrell said Gates was informed Tuesday morning of the president's mandate, and that the defense secretary told the service leaders Wednesday morning that the announcement is the beginning of a consequential process of reviewing what feasibly can be cut.

Morrell said he had no details on how long the review would take or who would oversee it, but that it will "take some time for it to be done thoughtfully and properly."

"It will not be done in time to affect the (fiscal year 2012) budget," he said. "So it will likely be reflected in the (2013) budget submitted early next year."