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Military leaders warn of dangers of automatic cuts

Panetta, Dempsey plead with Congress to avert automatic defense cuts next year By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) ' Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is pleading with Congress to avert automatic, across-the-board cuts that would mean an additional half-trillion reduction in defense beginning next January.

Panetta told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee Thursday that the process known as sequestration is "a crazy, nutty tool." The failure last year of the congressional supercommittee to come up with at least $1.2 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years means federal spending will be automatically reduced next year, with $492 billion in military cuts coming over a decade.

The Pentagon is already on track to reduce projected spending by $487 billion over 10 years.

Joint Chiefs chairman Martin Dempsey echoed Panetta's concerns, saying the automatic cuts would hit troop numbers and weapons systems.

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