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Hagel announces $1B in Pentagon staff cutbacks, amid budget talks

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Wednesday that he's cutting his Pentagon staff by 20 percent in an effort to save at least $1 billion over five years, as part of broader across-the-board cutbacks at the Defense Department. 

Hagel, at a news conference with Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, urged Congress to avoid another year of mandatory budget cuts known as sequester. The military already is cutting tens of billions from its budget projections over the next decade, but the sequester made the cutbacks even deeper. Sequester supporters argue that the mandatory cuts are critical to getting the nation's debt and deficits under control. 

Regardless, Hagel laid out the details of the plan for his Pentagon staff, which was announced in broad terms last summer. 

"Much of these savings will be achieved through contractor reductions, although there will be reductions in civilian personnel," Hagel said. "Ultimately other headquarters elements will be implementing similar" cuts. 

The plan is part of a larger proposal to reorganize his staff and trim the budgets of various civilian defense headquarters. 

Congress, meanwhile, is trying to hammer out a new spending bill for 2014. With lawmakers facing a Jan. 15 deadline, some are pushing for yet another short-term measure. Whether lawmakers will keep in place the sequester remains unclear. 

Hagel has said that forced reductions in 2013 have put at risk the military's ability to carry out its future missions. 

"Congress must be a full partner in our efforts to responsibly bring down defense spending and to implement needed institutional reforms that maximize the use of our resources," Hagel said. 

Dempsey also addressed the controversy over a proposed security pact between the United States and Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has resisted signing the agreement for various reasons, and Dempsey acknowledged that a failure to strike a deal could result in no U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014. 

"I have not been told to plan for a zero option but clearly I understand that it is a possibility given the current impasse," he said. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.