But what is not manageable is sequestration, he said.
That is unless the current law requiring a return to sequestration spending cuts in fiscal year 2016 is changed, Hagel told the service members and Defense Department civilians at a town hall meeting at U.S. European Command headquarters.
Even without sequestration, DoD will continue to make cuts in fiscal 2015 and will continue to reduce its share of the total government budget, the secretary said, but if sequestration comes back in fiscal 2016, it will require cuts of another $50 billion.
"That's in addition to the $490-billion-over-10-year cut that we're already implementing," Hagel said.
DoD leaders will have to prioritize where resources are applied, the secretary said. "As we've come down from 13 years of two large-scale land wars, it's a natural process on a reduction-of-force structure," he added, "and it happens after every large conflict that we have been engaged in."
This time around, force structure is not affected as much as it was after the Korean War, Vietnam or Desert Storm, Hagel told the service members, but he noted that the military was much larger then. "The drawdown projected today as a result of the 13 years in Iraq and Afghanistan is significantly lower in drawdown of force structure than it was for those three previous conflicts," he said.
DoD leaders are assessing where the threats and challenges are, and how to prioritize the forces, Hagel said.
"It goes back also to partnerships -- where are our partners' capabilities to do more? -- and we'll help them do that," he said. "We're constantly adjusting and reflecting and making those adjustments based on what we think is in the best interest of our country in each part of the world, in each combatant command."
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