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By MARCUS WEISGERBER

Defense News

The Pentagon has officially begun planning for how it would carry out the first $50 billion across-the-board spending cut as part of the 10-year, $500 billion sequestration cuts set to take effect Jan. 2.

The White House Office of Management and Budget has issued guidance to the Defense Department instructing officials to look at how these cuts will affect military personnel, programs and operations.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said that it is "prudent at this stage" to begin some initial planning.
"We don't have all of the details firmed up," Little said during a Dec. 5 briefing. "Naturally, we hope very much that sequestration will be avoided."

DoD officials are "going to have to do some detailed planning at some point on the numbers and the specific consequences of sequestration, many of which we've anticipated already, and talked about very publicly," Little said. "We're not at that stage yet."

Through this planning, DoD expects to indentify specific numbers and how to communicate the ramifications of spending cuts to its 3 million-strong workforce.

Sequestration calls for $500 billion in defense spending cuts over a decade, which amounts to about $50 billion annually.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other top defense officials have called for Congress to come up with a deficit reduction deal that averts cuts to defense spending.

Democrats and Republicans in the current lame-duck session of Congress have been going back and forth on a way to come up with a plan to stave off sequestration and the expiration of tax cuts, commonly referred to as the "fiscal cliff."

Speaking before the presidential election, Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall said he expects "a delay for a few months" until the new Congress is seated before the sequestration situation is finalized.

Military pay is exempt from sequestration. However, DoD and budget analysts expect widespread furloughs of DoD civilians to pay for military operations.

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