Mullen: 'Hard' budget times ahead for military

All parts of the U.S. military will face budget cuts as Washington shaves the federal deficit —  even special-operations troops, says Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen.

Special-operations forces take on the toughest missions under the most dangerous conditions, but they will not be "immune" from declining defense budgets, Mullen told a dinner audience Tuesday evening during an industry conference in Washington.

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The next few years will present the military with "hard times in terms of resources," Mullen said. And though the military is "built to run through walls," smaller military budget levels will mean "leaders will have to start deciding how to prioritize," he added.

The chairman has said recently that the post-Sept. 11 defense spending spree left the Pentagon so flush with cash that it lost the ability to set budget priorities and make trades between programs.

Mullen's message about "hard" budget times for the military comes as a fight over defense funding levels brews on Capitol Hill.

The House next week is expected to take up a continuing budget resolution that would shave $13.2 billion from the Pentagon’s $531 billion request.

Many Democrats, Republican leaders and conservative Tea Party members feel the defense cuts should be on the table as Congress tries to right the nation's fiscal path. Some pro-defense Republicans, however, say Pentagon cuts would threaten national security.

In the meantime, Mullen addressed the strain that nearly a decade of war has placed on special-operations troops.

"Sixty percent of our special operations know nothing but war," the chairman said, adding that he "doesn't underestimate for a second the challenges ... at home or at war. And they will grow over time."