The Vice Chief of Naval Operations testified before the House Armed Services Committee Sept. 20 to discuss potential impacts of the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012 to the U.S. Navy. Adm. Mark Ferguson joined the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), Robert F. Hale, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Larry O. Spencer, and Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford in outlining what impacts sequestration would have on the Department of Defense.
Ferguson pulled from recent fleet engagements to illustrate concern within the Navy.
“Last month I visited the Central Command region had the opportunity to visit both of our aircraft carriers, our minesweepers, our patrol craft, and other ships in the region. I talked to over 10,000 of our forward deployed Sailors,” said Ferguson. “At every forum, Sailors – from the most junior to our operational commanders – expressed concern regarding what sequestration will mean to our Navy and their service. The uncertainty of our fiscal future is increasingly on the minds of our force.”
Sequestration refers to a mechanism in the Budget Control Act that would trigger an additional $500 billion across-the-board defense spending cuts over the next decade, in addition to $487 billion in cuts already programmed, unless Congress identifies equivalent savings by January.
Ferguson illustrated how sequestration would force the Navy to make difficult choices in the second half of fiscal year 2013 across three broad categories: fleet operations and maintenance, procurement, and force structure.
“We will make every attempt to preserve quality of life and family support programs for our personnel. However, we may be forced to make selective reductions in base support services and infrastructure sustainment,” Ferguson explained.
Each of the testifying DoD leaders expressed concerns of the potential impact to the services, Ferguson pointed out that sequestration implementation would potentially impact mission accomplishment for the Navy.
“With existing forces, we are already seeing longer deployments. Carriers are operating at about 8 months, ballistic missile defense ships (operating at) 9 months, with very rapid turnaround to go back on deployment. We would not be able to sustain that going forward under sequestration. You would see less presence forward, and you would see less ability to surge,” said Ferguson.
Naval Today Staff, September 21, 2012; Image: Navy