Todd Harrison, from the non-partisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, cautioned Pentagon officials need to be careful with their dire rhetoric.

“This is not going to make us a second-rate power by any means,” Harrison said, referring to comments former Defense secretary Leon Panetta first made to USA TODAY. Also Friday, Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army chief of staff, told CBS that the cuts constitute the “greatest national security threat” to the United States.

The cuts forced by sequestration and continuing to spend under the 2012 budget plan will total $46 billion over the next seven months for the military. That’s about 9% of the Pentagon’s budget. The reductions will have real impacts and are bad policy, Harrison said, but will not render the military incapable of defending the country.

“Sequestration will create a mess, but I wouldn’t characterize it as a catastrophe,” Harrison said.