By Kristina Wong - 07/09/14 05:49 PM EDT
Secretary of Defense Chuck HagelChuck HagelThere's still time for another third-party option Hagel says NATO deployment could spark a new Cold War with Russia Overnight Defense: House panel unveils 5B defense spending bill MORE said Wednesday that deep defense budget cuts keep him up at night.
"Sequestration has been devastating to this institution. It's something that our leaders and I work with every day trying to convince Congress to change that," he told troops at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia.
Only lawmakers can relieve the cuts, but so far, a majority of members have been unable or unwilling to overturn them.
If Republicans take the Senate this fall in the mid-term election, there may be a increased chance to reverse the cuts, but not a guarantee due to a number of Republican fiscal hawks seeking to reduce overall government spending.
If sequestration cuts hit the department in full in 2016, the Army will shrink down to 420,000 troops and the National Guard to 315,000. The Air Force and Marine Corps will have to cut tens of thousands of troops, and other cost-cutting measures would have to be taken.
"We've got a year or so to help inform and educate and try to persuade the Congress to change that. If they don't change that, then we are going to be faced with deeper and bigger cuts. We're continuing to be faced with deep cuts now," Hagel said.