WASHINGTON (AP) — American warships lie in wait across the eastern Mediterranean Sea ready to strike Syria if ordered, and Pentagon officials insist they'll find the money to fund the operation if needed.

But as the military continues to grapple with massive budget cuts, senior defense leaders say it will certainly get harder and more expensive to respond quickly to similar international conflicts in the future.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus warns that the impending automatic, across-the-board budget cuts will make it far more difficult to give the president credible military options.

Mabus says there already are fewer ships going to sea, fewer Navy pilots flying and fewer Marines training because of cuts that would slash more than $50 billion from the 2014 defense budget and $500 billion over 10 years.