WASHINGTON (AP) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says he "sure as hell" hopes that automatic, across-the-board cuts in military spending don't happen.
Panetta repeatedly has warned about a catastrophic impact from the cuts, and he issued a fresh warning Wednesday at a congressional hearing.
The $1.2 trillion cuts to defense and domestic programs are set to begin Jan. 2 unless Congress can come up with an alternative.
The Pentagon would face a decade-long reduction of nearly $500 billion in projected spending. And that's on top of the $492 billion reduction in defense over 10 years that President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans agreed to last summer.
Republican candidate Mitt Romney has criticized Obama for the expected cuts. The president pointed out that Republicans voted for them.