By Larry Shaughnessy
U.S. military officials are anxiously awaiting North Korea's announced ballistic missile launch, which they described to Congress on Wednesday as part of the regime's "coercive strategy" to antagonize, provoke and then try to win concessions.
April 15 will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Song, the founder of communist North Korea and the grandfather of the current North Korean leader, who has said there will be a missile launch around that date, in violation of numerous U.N. resolutions and the most recent agreement with the United States.
North Korea has designated the entire year of 2012 as a year of strength and prosperity in celebration of Kim Il Song's birthday.
By CNN Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy
Calls for details about what budget cuts the Defense Department is considering are coming from both houses of Congress and both parties. And they are getting more urgent.
The latest demand for specifics came in a letter Thursday from Senators John McCain (R-Ariz) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. "We ask that you describe the specific options and types of actions the Department would be required to take" if more budget cuts are mandated.
Their letter went on to say "In order for the Congress to do its job, we cannot wait until December or later to receive specific and concrete information."
Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby confirmed that Panetta had received the letter and would reply but wouldn't say if that reply would include the details McCain and Graham were demanding.
By CNN's Larry Shaughnessy and Charley Keyes
The top military officers were on Capitol Hill Wednesday warning what one called the "catastrophic" impact of further defense cuts, and providing more detail about what potentially would get cut if a deal on the budget was not reached and automatic cuts were imposed.
For months, the Pentagon - from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on down - has been sounding the alarm about what further budget cuts would mean to American national security. Wednesday's chorus of warnings came from the top officers in each branch of service about what would happen if they had to cut even more from their budgets.
"Cuts of this magnitude would be catastrophic to the military, and in the case of the Army would significantly reduce our capability," Gen. Ray Odierno, the new Army chief of staff, testified about the potential of huge cuts if the 12-member congressional "super committee" doesn't reach a budget deal by Thanksgiving.
Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the chief of Naval operations, echoed those concerns, saying, "In my view sequestration will cause irreversible damage." Sequestration is the term used for mandatory across-the-board defense budget cuts. FULL POST
By Senior National Security Producer Charley Keyes
A senior military leader warned Congress Thursday that further budget cuts will mean lost lives in future conflicts.
"There is just a tendency to believe at the end of a war that we will never need ground forces again. I'll tell you that we've never got that right," said Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army. "We have always required them. We just don't have the imagination to predict when that will be."
Chiarelli was testifying before the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee along with high-level officers from the other services.
"And quite frankly, let's be honest, it has cost us lives," Chiarelli said of cuts in the aftermath of previous wars. "Cost us lives at Kasserine Pass" in Tunisia in World War II," it cost us lives at Task Force Smith in Korea. It cost us lives every single time."
Chiarelli's blunt talk of deadly flesh-and-blood consequences broke free of the usual budget debate on the risk of a "hollowed-out force," and the cost of "modernization." FULL POST