Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday pushed back on accusations that he is on a mission to gut the Pentagon’s budget.

Hagel defended the Pentagon’s plans to deal with sequestration at a House Armed Services hearing Thursday, saying that he had to tackle the reality of the across-the-board cuts.

"The president did not instruct me when he asked me to consider doing this job ... to go over and cut the heart out of the Pentagon,” Hagel told the panel. “That wasn’t his instruction to me, nor any implication in any way.”