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Panetta Outlines US Defense Budget Decisions

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff brief the media in the Pentagon Briefing Room on major budget decisions stemming from the defense strategic guidance, January 26, 2012.

The U.S. Defense Department says the Obama administration will propose to Congress that U.S. ground forces be cut by 100,000 as part of nearly $500 billion in defense budget cuts during the next decade.

Watch related report by Luis Ramirez:

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday that the administration will request a 2013 defense budget of $525 billion. That is $6 billion less than the request for the current fiscal year, which ends September 30.

Highlights of the U.S. Defense Department's proposed budget for fiscal year 2013:

-Billions of dollars in cuts:
The Pentagon wants $525 billion for 2013, $6 billion less than this year's request. For Afghanistan and other overseas operations, the department seeks another $88 billion, down from $115 billion this year. Overall, the plan aims to save $259 billion in the next five years and $487 billion in the next decade.

-A "smaller," "leaner" military:
The Army would shrink from 562,000 active duty soldiers today to 490,000 by 2017. The force would still be larger than it was when the United States was attacked September 11, 2001. The Marine Corps numbers would fall from 202,000 to 182,000.

-Out with the old, delaying the new:
The Air Force would retire a number of older planes, including about two dozen C-5A cargo aircraft and 65 C-130 cargo planes. The Navy would keep 11 aircraft carriers, but retire seven cruisers earlier than planned, and delay purchase of other vessels, including a submarine. The purchase of F-35 fighter jets also would be slowed.

-Focus on Asia and the Middle East:
The U.S. would maintain its presence in the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East and base combat ships in Singapore and patrol craft in Bahrain. The budget would also eliminate two Army brigades in Europe.

-New investments for new challenges:
The military would increase the number of special operations forces and invest in more capability in the cyber world.

-Closing domestic military bases:
To identify additional savings, the Obama administration will ask Congress to consider a new round of domestic base closures.

Panetta said the plan is to increase the Pentagon budget to $567 billion by 2017.

He said the defense department is also asking for an additional $88 billion for overseas operations to maintain support for troops in Afghanistan.

The plan also includes a shift in focus to the Asia Pacific region and the Middle East.

The announcement marks the start of this year's annual budget debate. The White House is expected to send its national budget plan to Congress in mid-February.

President Barack Obama unveiled the new strategic plan for the military earlier this month.

More cuts are expected in the years ahead, as the Pentagon reduces the number of troops, delays or trims plans for buying new ships, aircraft and weapons, and shifts its focus to creating a more agile force.

Congress and the Obama administration battled all last year over the federal budget and national debt. Republicans in Congress have opposed White House efforts to raise revenue in addition, and said the administration's proposed budget cuts were insufficient.

However, many Republicans support deeper cuts in domestic programs rather than the military.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.