Among the consequences that the U.S. Navy is warning will occur should sequestration happen in March: Two carrier strike group deployments would be “extended indefinitely,” and there would only partial training for two more strike groups. (U.S. Navy)
A drastic cutback in the number of strike group deployments. Aircraft flying hours in the Middle East cut by more than half. Naval operations stopped around Latin America and reduced in the Pacific. Four of the fleet’s nine air wings shut down starting in March. Two carrier strike group deployments “extended indefinitely.” Only partial training for two more strike groups.
That’s what the U.S. Navy is planning should the mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration go into effect beginning in March. The spending reductions would require the service to slash more than $4 billion from its 2013 operation and maintenance funds.
The cuts would come on top of a shortfall totaling more than $4.6 billion should Congress fail by March 31 to pass a budget for the last six months of 2013 and revert to a continuing resolution (CR) funding the government at 2012 levels. Should that happen, the Navy is planning to cancel 23 ship overhauls, cancel most aircraft maintenance from April through September, cut more than 1,100 temporary workers in Navy-owned shipyards, reduce ship operations and aircraft flying hours, and defer a host of “new start” procurement projects.
The moves are laid out in a document that shows the Navy “acting now to mitigate CR impacts,” but describing how sequestration will require deeper cuts.
The document, dated Jan. 25, splits the budget crisis impacts into Tier A moves reacting to a year-long CR, and Tier B responses to the sequestration threat. It also breaks out to show the impact of the reductions on fleet concentration areas in several states and regions of the U.S.
Adm. Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), laid out a series of directives in a Jan. 25 memo accompanying the brief. The CNO described a host of moves, some of which are taking immediate effect.
Among Greenert’s directives relating to the threat of a year-long CR:
Fleet training events are curtailed, including training unrelated to units preparing to deploy
The hiring of civilians has been frozen
Non-mission-essential temporary travel is curtailed
Base operating support is reduced by 10 percent, and facilities support expenses by half
The Navy’s plans for sequestration responses also include the possibility of up to 22 days of civilian furloughs.
The service is attempting to make many of the changes reversible, Greenert said in the memo. “They may be reversed if Congress passes a fiscal 2013 defense appropriations bill or grants Navy permission to reprogram funds from investment accounts [to operations and maintenance],” Greenert said.
Even so, many of the moves will have lasting effects should they come into force.
“This list does not convey how long it will take us to get it right getting out of this,” a Navy official said late Jan. 25. “The long-term implications on top of whatever short-term implications this may have is the bigger story.”
The commercial industry supporting the Navy will also be affected, the official said, and suppliers may be forced to shut down or reduce operations should the Navy cut them off.
“How long does it take for them to hire back people, train them, and get back to where they were?” the official asked.
The service hopes the civilian layoffs are temporary, the official said, but noted the cuts of temporary workers will begin “very soon.” More personnel details should be forthcoming next week, the official added.
While the spending reductions seem drastic, “we think these are reversible,” the official said, noting that if funding is restored, “we would begin to reconstitute after that.”
The service also is asking for greater permissions to move money around between accounts, including in investment accounts that buy ships, aircraft, weapons and equipment.
Plans Being Studied
The briefing is being studied closely by lawmakers. Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., the new chairman of the House Seapower subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee, said Friday evening that while “no one’s fully digested it yet,” the Navy documents had “huge implications, not just economically, but strategically.”
“We’re not just talking about all the maintenance we’re going to do, but two carriers that will be out indefinitely,” he said. “That’s going to be huge.”
Forbes, in line with many House Republicans, again decried the Obama administration’s refusal to allow the Department of Defense to brief lawmakers as early as last summer on their plans for sequestration.
“We’ve been after DoD to bring about some specificity on this for months now. And they refused,” Forbes fumed. “We’ve been telling them if you don’t give us this, we can’t change it. And now we get this dropped.”
But Forbes was equally annoyed at the Senate for failing to bring a defense appropriations bill to the floor for a vote, as the House did last summer.
Agreement on a spending bill, Forbes said, is unlikely unless each house can produce its own version.
“It they had put out a bill and we’d been miles apart at least we’d know how we differ,” he said, “but as long as the Senate refuses to pass a bill it makes it incredibly difficult.”
Asked if the Navy was going to extremes or grandstanding in its threatened cuts, Forbes demurred.
“I don’t think anybody’s particularly grandstanding,” he declared. “These are real situations that may occur. I can’t say anybody’s crying wolf.”
Forbes sounded hopeful that somehow, some solutions will be found to avoid the worst of the Navy’s threatened moves.
“I firmly believe we will mitigate a great deal of this,” he said. “I don’t know what course that will take, but it will be to alleviate some it. But not all of it.”