Department of the Navy officials testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday on the devastating effects the ongoing ContinuingÂ ResolutionÂ and looming sequestration would have on the services.
By allowing sequestrationâ€”the across-the-board cutsâ€”to take effect 1 March and hamstringing the Pentagon and the services as to what they can do under a Continuing Resolution through 27 March, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said, â€śWe just put the federal government . . . in a position of owing the military a lot of moneyâ€ť to repair the damage caused by deferred maintenance and canceling contracts.
â€śShips are going to cost more,â€ť because buys have been reduced and construction times stretched out.Â â€śDeferred maintenance is not savings,â€ť Sen. Angus King (I-ME), who caucuses with the Democrats, said.
The impact of sequestration will be felt immediately in all the services as they search for $46 billion in cuts, but the long-term consequences of not passing a proper spending bill likely will affect the Navyâ€”with its long-lead contracts and multiyear buysâ€”the most in the years to come.
Ashton Carter, deputy secretary of defense, said the Navyâ€™s cancellation of the deployment of the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) carrier strike group to the Middle East was part of the â€śpurely collateral damage of political gridlock,â€ť and it has a direct effect on sailors and their families.Â All their plans for the immediate future were scuttled, and â€śit all changed within a couple of days.â€ť
Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mark Ferguson put the impact of sequestration on the Navy at $4 billion in its operations and maintenance accountsâ€”think training and also think civilian employeesâ€™ payâ€”and $7 billion in its investment accounts, that is, future shipbuilding and aircraft buys, research and development, and science and technology accounts in areas such as underwater dominance.
On â€śFebruary 15, we will begin notifying shipyards,â€ť Ferguson said about furloughs and taking steps to shut down four air wings (with its impact on pilot certification if they do not maintain flying hoursâ€”a possibility) in addition to canceling the Truman deployment to meet the added cuts for this year.Â Over the 10 years of constant $50 billion in annual cuts, Ferguson said it would mean a fleet of between 220 and 230 ships with at least two carrier strike groups affected.
The Defense Department based its Fiscal Year 2013 budget on a projected $487 cut in projected 10-year Pentagon spending.Â The across-the-board cuts the department and other federal agencies except the Department of Veterans Affairs face are on top of that.
As an expeditionary force, Commandant Gen. James Amos said, â€śthe Marine Corps places high emphasis on readiness,â€ť but sequestration will put 50 percent of the force below acceptable readiness levels for deployment and that â€śinevitably leads to a hollow force.â€ť He also cited its impact on the Marinesâ€™ future contribution to special operations forces.Â Amos said there are about 2,500 Marines in those forces now, and under the current strategy, he planned to send an additional 1,000. The Marines â€ścertainly will not be able to meetâ€ť that goal.
Looking at the Continuing Resolutionâ€™s impact on the Fleet, Ferguson said three carriers â€śare now tied up [in deferring maintenance] or construction.â€ť Carter put it this way: Admiral Ferguson â€śis only able to build the ship he built last yearâ€ť under the rules covering spending.Â â€śIt makes no sense.â€ť
The impact on the Navyâ€™s industrial baseâ€”government and privateâ€”is already being felt.Â Ferguson said Navy yards are losing 350 workers a week as maintenance slows. Zeroing in on one field, he said, it takes â€śyears to train a nuclear welderâ€ť and younger workers may be saying to themselves, â€śthatâ€™s not my career pathâ€ť if there is little job security in ship maintenance and construction.
â€śWe have many sole-source suppliers,â€ť who might not survive years of defense spending cuts or on-again, off-again work, Ferguson said.
Even if all 800,000 defense employees were furloughed for the maximum 22 days, Carter said that would only provide $5 billion in savings, leaving $41 billion more to come out of this yearâ€™s budget. â€śWe have to go everywhere to get the $46 billion.â€ť