The main problem with the sequester is not the size of the cuts to the defense budget, but rather the across-the-board way they are administered, according to Todd Harrison of the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington.

The military has very little flexibility under the law to make smart spending reductions, he said. “High-priority, successful programs must be cut by the same percentage as wasteful, redundant, and low-priority programs,” Harrison said.

Yet even with the sequester, the Pentagon will still maintain an annual budget, adjusted for inflation, of well over $500 billion a year for the rest of the decade. That’s a modest reduction when compared to the previous drawdowns in defense spending that came after the wars in Korea and Vietnam and the Cold War, Harrison said.