Joint Chiefs chairman: Sequestration would force Pentagon to cut forces again

Sequestration’s $470 billion in new cuts over 10 years, set to take effect March 1, could force deeper cuts, Dempsey said, with one third coming from the number of boots on the ground and two thirds from spending on modernization, compensation and readiness.

President Obama and Congress both say they want to avoid the cuts. But if they can't agree on legislation, "the Army will have to come down again," Dempsey said.

The Pentagon announced last week it would seek a 1 percent pay raise for military personnel, lower than expected, because of the Budget Control Act, which created the sequester but also created large cuts to military and non-defense spending.

"That action is being taken to help us absorb the $487 billion in the Budget Control Act. It has nothing to do with sequestration," Dempsey said.

Dempsey is scheduled to testify to Congress on the sequestration and other cuts next week.

"What we've got to make clear to the Congress next week (is) that it's not just about sequestration. We're trying to absorb the $487 billion Budget Control Act, we're trying to absorb the challenges that were imposed on us by the continuing resolution and we're anticipating absorbing sequestration," Dempsey said.