By Jeremy Herb - 03/29/12 02:31 PM EDT
The top U.S. military official said Wednesday that he “misspoke” when he said the automatic cuts from sequestration could cause the United States to lose its place as a global power.
Speaking to reporters on a trip to Brazil, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said that he did not fully explain what he meant.
“The idea that I really wanted to get across was that we wouldn’t be the global power that we know ourselves to be today,” Dempsey said, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The defense budget is facing a $500 billion cut in January 2013 through sequestration, unless Congress changes the law. That cut would come on top of a $487 billion cut that the Pentagon is already planning for over the next decade.
In congressional testimony, Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have said that the $487 billion cut is an acceptable level of risk, but sequestration would not be.
Dempsey said in February that if the automatic cuts went into effect: “We would no longer be a global power.”
Dempsey’s comment was used in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Monday to criticize President Obama and praise the House Republicans’ budget, which undoes $200 billion of the $487 billion cut to defense.
Dempsey said that he made the comment because he “cut myself off in mid-sentence,” due to time constraints.