Battle begins on defense budget spending; Obama plan seeks to curtail army to pre-WWII size

Military budget cut: Pentagon outlines plan t... 02:39

The Obama administration wants to build a 21st century military, but it may have to go to war with Congress to get its plan approved.

The pushback began quickly on Monday as the Pentagon revealed next year's proposed budget, which would shrink the Army to its smallest size since the 1930s before World War II.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, has called the changes "a huge challenge."

Some of these changes have been coming for years -- getting the military out of war mode and reshaping it into a modernized force, and that means smaller and more high-tech, but it could come at the expense of some of the men and women who serve.

The announcement at first didn't sound that dramatic. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said, "We are repositioning to focus on the strategic challenges and opportunities that will define our future."

As Hagel began outlining sharp spending cuts in the Pentagon's new budget, concern and dismay spread from Washington, D.C., to military bases across the country.

"What we're trying to do is solve our financial problems on the backs of our military," Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., the House Armed Services Committee chairman, said. "And that can't be done."

The requested cuts are widespread, affecting popular programs and troop benefits. Pay raises for enlisted men and women would be capped at one percent for a second straight year. Housing allowances would be reduced.

One veterans group estimates that an army captain with a family of four and 10 years of experience would lose $2,100 a year.

Megan Zemke lives at Fort Lee just outside Richmond, Va., with her husband, an Army captain with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It definitely affects us, and it's definitely a scary prospect," she said.

She also served in the Army for seven years, and now is at home expecting the couple's first child.

"It is a pinch," Zemke said. "It is a belt-tightening. It is trying to figure out, 'How are we going to make this work?' And on top of that, trying to figure out how am I going to have my husband be away again, how am I going to be the sole provider for my children while he or she is gone?"

Hagel also asked for a new round of base closures and to cancel the Army's ground combat vehicle and the Air Force's A-10 attack jets.

But two areas are being protected: money for special operations forces and cyber warfare.

Hagel says the cuts have to come and the U.S. is no longer on war footing, CBS News' Jan Crawford reported on "CBS This Morning."

Reshaping the military is something even former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld wanted to do, and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said it was one of his biggest "failures" -- not being able to reposition the military for the 21st century.