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Wielding the sequester knife: 'There is no manual'

Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Ashton Carter testifies during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee May 19, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

One week. That's how long we've got until the sequester, until the cuts start happening.

Ashton Carter is the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the guy whose job it is to run the Pentagon day-to-day and find the $46 billion or so the military's got to cut. He said the department is ready to "execute sequester," but he feels it's unfortunate the way it's being done.

"There is no manual; I don't think anyone's ever done anything this way -- and for a very good reason, which is it's a really dumb way to do things," Carter said. "We've cut our budget before -- we did last year -- but we didn't do it the sequester way. We had a chance to do it strategically and to ask the right question, which is: What does the country need?"

He said the uncertainty from the sequester will have an effect on individuals serving in the military.

"It certainly plays out on morale, it plays out on their family, and very worryingly to me, it will inevitably play out on their willingness to stay in," he said.

Carter also warned that defense subcontractors who don't have the financial resources to survive the cuts might not want to do business with the U.S. government anymore, because it'll be an unreliable customer.

And furthermore, he said: "You have to remember, the whole world is watching this. Our friends are watching it, our allies are watching it -- and our enemies are watching it as well. And that too causes lasting reputational embarrassment.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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