The Pentagon has begun laying off most of its 46,000 temporary and term employees and cutting maintenance on ships and aircraft in an effort to slow spending due to fears of new defense budget cuts, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said on Friday.

Carter said he had asked the military services to produce detailed plans by February 1 to say what they are doing to reduce short-term spending before nearly $50 billion in new cuts are due to go into effect on March 1.

The deputy defense secretary said the department had to act immediately because "we're running out of time to absorb these cuts" if they go into effect this fiscal year.