WASHINGTON Jan 10 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
"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.