Defense budget cuts have reduced the number of Navy forces that would respond to an emergency in the Persian Gulf and the Western Pacific, the chief of naval operations said.
“A year ago I would tell you we had three [aircraft] carrier strike groups and three amphibious ready groups ready to surge. And if there were a contingency, that we had to take on a large operation, the surge force would be a concern,” Adm. Jonathan Greenert told reporters at the Pentagon.
“The result for presence and for both 2014 and 2015, to kind of summarize — one carrier strike group, one amphibious ready group each in each theater, western Pacific and the Arabian Gulf. Our surge will be limited, really, to those that are next to deploy,” Adm. Greenert said. “But the rest of the fleet, regrettably, won’t have the capabilities that we would notionally have and that we like to have in plans to support,” he said.
Until this year, the Navy had maintained two carrier groups in the Gulf. Only one is maintained there now because of spending cuts known as sequestration that will require the Pentagon to trim its spending by $500 billion over the next 10 years.
After sequestration kicked into effect, the Navy withdrew all combat ships from its Southern Command, curtailed training and deployments, halted restoration and modernization projects, and minimized base operations.
The situation will get worse if sequestration is not lifted for 2014, Adm. Greenert said. The Navy would have to trim its budget by $14 billion, and slow shipbuilding, which will cost more in contracts over time, he said. Furthermore, the number of ships to be repaired next year would be halved.
In the meantime, the Navy is asking Congress to allow it to reprogram funds and make money available for ship repair and operations this year, Adm. Greenert said.
“You take sequestration for 10 years, that is a worrisome trend when you look at the requirements we have today for my force structure assessment, 306 ships, and the requirements that the global combatant commanders have today. And reconciling that will be very difficult,” he said.