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A second industry source said he believes the Army will propose eliminating some BCTs in the 2013 budget and ultimately do away with six to eight of 45 active BCTs.

The Army now has an active force of about 570,000, which is expected to shrink to 520,000 under previously submitted budgets. But the second industry source said that number will likely fall to about 485,000 soldiers to meet the new spending constraints.

This source said the Army is looking at terminating at least three programs — an improved ground-to-air missile, a target acquisition system and a command-and-communication suite.

The Lexington Institute’s Mr. Thompson said: “The normal inclination of our political system when a budget crunch comes is to cut investment and keep funding people programs. But at the level of cuts currently being contemplated, that would wipe out the next generation of weapons system. So some major cuts to personnel are unavoidable.”

The Army also has been debating whether to cancel the new Ground Combat Vehicle, priced at $40 billion for 1,800 vehicles, and instead upgrade existing soldier carriers, the second industry source said.

“Most observers believe the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle and Joint Light Tactical Vehicle are both doomed,” Mr. Thompson said.

The second industry source also said that the top brass remain committed to the Ground Combat Vehicle and noted that the Pentagon has allowed the Army to award initial contracts. “But there are no guarantees,” the source said, adding that Mr. Panetta’s staff may opt to terminate it.

Mr. Panetta has been urging Congress to reach a deal that heads off $500 billion to $600 billion in automatic defense cuts, or else face a “hollow” military. The term became famous during the Jimmy Carter administration when his Army secretary concluded that budget cuts had turned the service into a “hollow” force.

Calling automatic cuts a “doomsday mechanism,” Mr. Panetta told an audience at the Naval Post Graduate School: “The reality is that it will be devastating to the defense budget. It will hollow out the force. It will weaken our national defense. It will undermine our ability to maintain our alliances throughout the world. And, most importantly, it will break faith with the troops and their families.”