WASHINGTON - As the US military grappled with budget cuts over the past year, one thing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made clear was the Pentagon must avoid reductions in training and maintenance that would lower the force's readiness to fight.

But a report released by a Washington think tank on Tuesday challenged that assumption, concluding that a short-term cut in readiness funding could free up cash to develop weapons and equipment needed to be ready in the future.

Several teams of defense experts brought together by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments to re-envision US defense strategy in a time of tight budgets concluded that a short-term reduction in readiness spending could be done with little risk.

"These teams reasoned that, 'well, we're coming out of a decade of war and frankly our force is very ready," said CSBA fellow Mark Gunzinger, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and retired Air Force colonel who helped lead the exercise.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger