The sequester is about to take a big bite out of the Pentagon, putting the military’s dire warnings about a “hollowed out” force to the ultimate test.

Barring an unexpected last-second deal, across-the-board automatic spending cuts to be implemented Friday will reduce this year’s proposed $525 billion defense budget by $46 billion, bringing funding down to a level not seen since 2007.

Budgets would begin rising again in the next fiscal year, but from the lower baseline. Military spending would not be projected to reach $525 billion again until fiscal year 2019.

If the full decade’s worth of cuts goes forward, projected spending would be reduced by roughly $500 billion.

The question, which has been a matter of fierce debate, is whether the military can swallow such cuts without weakening national security.

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