How automatic defense cuts would hit U.S.

THE PENTAGON - A lot of folks in the defense industry could lose their jobs. Congress' failure to bring the federal budget under control means that in a little more than a year, across-the-board cuts in federal spending would be automatic, and half of them will come from the Defense Department, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports.

To hear Defense Secretary Leon Panetta tell it, automatic spending cuts would be "devastating" to national defense.

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"It's a ship without sailors," he said. "It's a brigade without bullets. It's an air wing without enough trained pilots. It's a paper tiger."

In a letter to Capitol Hill, Panetta provided specific examples of what he believes the cuts -- which would reduce defense spending by $1 trillion during the next 10 years -- might mean.

  • The smallest ground force since the beginning of World War II
  • The smallest fleet since World War I
  • And what he says would be the smallest fighter force in Air Force history

What he didn't say was that today's weapons systems are dramatically more capable and are therefore needed in fewer numbers. Just to take one example, the radar-evading B-2 stealth bomber can fly solo missions where earlier generation bombers required escorts of fighter and electronic-jamming aircraft to protect them against an enemy's air defenses. And with precision guided weapons, each one of those bombs can strike a different target.

But across-the-board cuts would, according to the Pentagon, mean the loss of a million or more jobs in the defense industry, increasing unemployment by 1 percent.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.