The Pentagon is set to cut $41 billion from its 2013 budget after sequestration went into effect on March 1.
Hagel said at Wednesday’s hearing that continued sequestration would “require dramatic reductions in core military capabilities” and the scope of the military’s ambitions.
The Pentagon’s 2014 budget request set spending at pre-sequester levels, which means the Defense budget could be cut another $52 billion if the sequester remains law.
Both the House and Senate budgets that passed last month also set 2014 spending at pre-sequester levels.
There’s been no movement so far in Congress to reach a deal involving new taxes and spending cuts that would reverse the sequester. Defense analysts criticized the Pentagon budget request as unserious because it ignored sequester cuts that are likely to still be on the books when the 2014 fiscal year begins in October.
Levin and other lawmakers have defended the budget request, saying that Congress still has a responsibility to undo sequestration.
Levin said Wednesday that he remains “hopeful” a grand bargain can be found, but if it’s not possible he endorsed a one-year plan to avoid sequestration in 2014.
When Republicans proposed short-term fixes last year, however, Levin was opposed to their plans to do away with a year's worth of cuts by reducing the federal workforce.
House and Senate GOP defense hawks introduced bills in 2012 and again in February 2013 to avert the first year of sequester cuts through the federal workforce cuts, but those plans went nowhere.
Levin said in January 2012 that the sequester needed to be tackled in its entirety in order to get a balanced deal that included revenues.
“The purpose of the sequester is to force us to act, to avoid it,” Levin said at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast. “It will only succeed if it’s kept in tact. It cannot be splintered.”
— This story was updated at 12:11 p.m., Friday, April 19.