Facing another wave of massive spending cuts, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday suggested cutting troop readiness to save money, but warned that it would give the commander in chief “fewer options” to protect the country.

Having already cut $37 billion due to the so-called spending “sequester,” and facing another cut of $52 billion, Hagel indicated that hitting readiness was among the few ways to make a big budget impact.

Opening the “Global Security Forum 2013” at the Center for Strategic and International Studies just five blocks from the White House, Hagel said that the Pentagon has already been forced to cut the readiness of non-deploying units. He said that those units suffer “as training has been curtailed, flying hour reduced, ships not steaming, and exercises being cancelled.”

And he warned that further spending cuts “could lead to a readiness crisis.”

In managing that potential in the face of growing cyber and terrorist threats, he told the 800 political, diplomatic and military leaders gathered in the new CSIS headquarters on Rhode Island Avenue that “we may have to accept the reality that not every unit will be at maximum readiness. That some kind of a tiered readiness system is perhaps inevitable. This carries the risk that the president of the United States would have fewer options to fulfill our nation’s security objectives.”

In his address, he also said that the administration is hopeful of new dialogue with Iran and also that Washington needs to work better with foreign partners in war-torn regions. “We must listen more, we must listen more,” he said.

Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.