SEOUL (Reuters) - The Pentagon will unveil a five-year budget to Congress in February that will include about $250-$260 billion in cuts, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Thursday.
President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress agreed to a deal in August that requires as much as $450 billion in cuts to security-related spending over 10 years, compared with previous Pentagon projections.
The comments by Panetta during a trip to South Korea suggest the Pentagon would be assertive in pursuing cuts in the first half of that period.
"It would involve a 5-year budget, which is normally what we would present. But that would represent probably somewhere around $250- or $260 billion of the $450 billion that we're required to reduce," Panetta said.
Pentagon officials have said the cuts can be made without jeopardizing national security, though Panetta warned earlier this month that any cuts in excess of $450 billion would "truly devastate (it)."
Noting the defense department's budget has nearly doubled over the past decade, some analysts say it should be able to manage $1 trillion in reductions over a decade, an opinion not shared by Pentagon leaders, who warn it would hollow-out the force.
Panetta has been on his first trip to Asia since taking over the Pentagon in July, reassuring worried allies that the U.S. military presence in the region will remain strong despite America's fiscal woes. He has said the end of the war in Iraq and the gradual U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan will allow the United States to shift more attention to Asia.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart)