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Said Mr. Harrison: “It means a smaller force all around. Some possible contingencies have to take on more risks. They won’t be able to respond as quickly or with as many forces if the military has to get smaller.”

The Navy is not using only briefing papers to drive home the point.

Last week, it announced the postponement of the $3.3 billion overhaul and refueling of the nuclear-powered carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. The news came a few days after the Navy had sent another alarming signal, saying the carrier USS Harry S. Truman strike group would not sail to the Middle East this month as previously scheduled.

Defense analysts ask what kind of message does that send to Iran, which the U.S. and Europe suspect is in quest of nuclear weapons?

“Long before the full impact of sequestration is felt, the hollowing out of the U.S. military is already under way,” said defense analyst Frank Gaffney, a senior defense official in President Reagan’s administration and now president of the Center for Security Policy, a national security and defense policy organization. “It will prove devastating to the security of the United States by emboldening our enemies, undermining our friends and allies, and eviscerating our ability to deter and defeat the former and to join forces with the latter in defense of freedom.”

Keeping the USS Truman at home was predicted in a memo to all fleet admirals last month from Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, chief of naval operations.

If sequestration hits, the memo said, the only way to meet the roughly 9 percent shrinkage in this year’s spending would be to stop training and exercises for units not scheduled to deploy and reduce naval presence overseas — a reality that already has occurred with the Truman’s postponement.

“Once we shut down our sustainment training, it will take our ships and squadrons about nine months to conduct the maintenance and training needed to be certified to deploy again,” Adm. Greenert said.

Winslow Wheeler, an analyst at the Center for Defense Information, which pushes for lower defense spending and canceling weapons programs, argues that a budget of $530 billion today will revert to 2007 levels under which the Pentagon seemed to do fine.

Mr. Wheeler said that, in a run-up to sequestration, the Pentagon continued to fund big weapons, such as the troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and now claims it has no choice but to loot maintenance and training funds.

“Their prioritizing procurement and research and development above the sharp end shows their distorted priorities,” he said. “They have it exactly wrong. They need to get the junk out of the procurement budget, like the F-35, to enable adequate funding for what’s important. Clearly, these people need to be replaced.”