Pentagon ordered to begin 'prudent' steps to prepare for defense cuts

WASHINGTON Thu Jan 10, 2013 3:42pm EST

WASHINGTON Jan 10 (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Thursday he had directed the U.S. military services to began taking "prudent" steps to offset the impact of huge budget cuts that could take effect on March 1, including curtailing some facilities maintenance and freezing civilian hiring.

"I'd like to believe that ultimately Congress will do the right thing," Panetta said. But "we simply cannot sit back now and not be prepared for the worst."

Panetta told a news conference he also directed the services to begin planning now in case the department has to put its nearly 800,000 civilian employees on unpaid leave for up to a month during the remaining months of the 2013 fiscal year.

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