The deficit-reduction supercommittee announced its failure to reach a bargain on Monday, setting into motion the $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts, known as sequestration, scheduled to begin in 2013.

House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) has vowed to introduce legislation to prevent steep automatic spending cuts to the department. However, Obama said the only way to avoid these cuts will be for Congress to come up with a deficit-reduction deal before the cuts take effect in 2013.

The concern about national defense is "understandable," Carney said. "If the concern is so great about the need to maintain a certain level of defense spending, there is an easy way out here, which is be willing to ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more."

Republicans have resisted calls to include tax hikes as part of a deficit-reduction package, while Democrats say increased revenue must be included in any deal.

Carney said the automatic cuts built into the summer's debt-ceiling deal were specifically designed as a "sword of Damocles" hanging over Congress's heads and meant to hold them responsible. 

“There will be no easy off-ramps on this one. We need to keep the pressure up on a compromise," Obama said Monday. "We still have a year."

Carney said it would be "far less than ideal" for the automatic cuts to take place. 

"And it would be a shame because there is plenty of time now," he said Tuesday. "The supercommittee may have failed, but Congress has certainly the capacity here to get something done to avoid the deliberately onerous imposition of the sequester."

Carney indicated the White House would push hard for Congress to get something done on deficit-reduction including tackling proposals included in Obama's American Jobs Act "in the coming months" before Congress enters recess for much of the month of January.