Furloughed workers, reduced combat readiness, shrunken naval operations and cuts to Air Force flying hours and weapons maintenance.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta listed those consequences as he provided a stark warning on Wednesday about the effects of impending budget cuts on the military unless Congress acts to avert them.
The result, he said, would be "the most serious readiness crisis" faced by the armed services in over a decade.
Panetta's address at Georgetown University, which he called "hopefully one of my last speeches as secretary of defense," included the first details of how the Pentagon would deal with the automatic spending cuts -- or sequestration in congressional jargon -- set to trigger March 1 across federal agencies.
For the Pentagon, sequestration would mean almost $500 billion in cuts over 10 years. For 2013 alone, some $46 billion in reduced spending would result in "a serious disruption in defense programs and a sharp decline in our military readiness," Panetta said.
"There are no good options" to deal with the situation, he continued, saying 46,000 department jobs would be at risk and more damaging measures in coming months could include:
-- Furloughing as many as 800,000 civilian workers for up to 22 days;
-- Cutting back on Army training and maintenance, which would reduce readiness of combat brigades outside Afghanistan;
-- Shrinking naval operations; and,
-- Reducing Air Force flying hours and weapons systems maintenance.
"This is not a game. This is reality," Panetta said, his voice rising. "These steps would seriously damage a fragile American economy and they would degrade our ability to respond to crisis precisely at a time of rising instability across the globe."
His comments sought to increase pressure on Republicans and Democrats to reach agreement on deficit-reduction steps, thereby avoiding the across-the-board spending cuts of sequestration that were part of a 2011 deal that raised the federal debt ceiling.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama called for a short-term deal to put off the cuts so Congress could continue work on a permanent fix that provides desired reductions in the federal deficit.
Obama made clear that he still wants a broader deficit-reduction agreement with Republicans that includes spending cuts, some entitlement reforms and increased revenue from eliminating some tax breaks.
However, Obama said, with time running out before the sequestration cuts slash government spending and result in job losses and economic slowdown, Congress should pass a temporary fix that would allow time for further negotiations on a broader plan.
"Compromise is a way to achieve it," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday, noting that Obama continued to offer proposals to cut spending and increase revenue that shifted to the middle from his original stances.
However, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, accused Obama and Democrats of avoiding needed spending cuts and trying to put off tough decisions instead of facing their responsibilities as elected leaders.
Deficit reduction should focus on cutting government spending and must include savings from popular entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Boehner insisted on Wednesday.
"At some point, Washington has to deal with its spending problem," he told reporters. "I've watched them kick this can down the road for 22 years. I've had enough of it. It's time to act."
Boehner also echoed Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky in opposing Obama's call for including more tax revenue in the mix.
Also Wednesday, GOP legislators proposed $85 billion in reduced spending through attrition -- or not filling all vacated government jobs -- and freezing congressional pay as an alternative to the sequestration this year.
They said the plan achieves the same amount of deficit reduction without more tax revenue sought by Obama and Democrats.
The debate continues the ideological showdown between Republicans and Democrats over the size and role of government.
Republicans driven by their conservative base want to reduce government and taxes to fund it, arguing that is the best way to grow the economy.
Democrats promote a strong government safety net through entitlements and support programs that they say bolsters middle-class opportunity necessary for economic growth.