Top Admiral Expects More Deferred Maintenance

(ASSOCIATED PRESS 13 AUG 13) … Audrey McAvoy

HONOLULU – Federal budget cuts may force the service to defer $80 million of maintenance work on Hawaii-based ships in in the upcoming fiscal year, the Navy’s top uniformed officer said Monday.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert told retired sailors and business leaders at a Navy League luncheon the maintenance plans were “at risk.”

Greenert told reporters after his talk the Navy must consider what ships in which ports will be given a higher priority for maintenance. Officials will consider which ships are deploying next and the condition the ships are in as they determine which ships to send to the shipyard.

The cuts known as sequestration, which began March 1, have reduced budgets 9 percent at federal agencies across-the-board during the current fiscal year.

For the next fiscal year starting Oct. 1, the Navy is cutting 14 percent from its budget. Manpower expenses are exempted from the next year’s cuts.

The military overall must chop $52 million from what it originally expected it would be spending next fiscal year. The Navy’s share of that is $14 billion.

The cuts stem from a law enacted two years ago that ordered the government to come up with $1.2 trillion in savings over a decade. The law included the threat of annual automatic cuts as a way of forcing lawmakers to reach a deficit-reduction deal, but they have been unable to do so.

Greenert said the Navy has lost its ability to deploy multiple aircraft carrier strike groups at short notice because of the cuts. In the past, the Navy had three aircraft carrier strike groups and three amphibious ready groups available to respond within seven days.

Now it only has one of each, he said.

“We won’t be able to keep that surge force as where we’ve been able to do it in the past,” he said.

Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said, that under a worst-case-scenario, the Navy would reduce its fleet of aircraft carrier strike groups to eight or nine if the Pentagon if the cuts lasted for the next decade.

That would be the fewest number of carrier strike groups for the nation since World War II. The Navy currently has 11 carrier strike groups.

Greenert said losing up to three carrier strike groups – which each include an aircraft carrier, five surface ships and an air wing – was one of the options the Pentagon was considering but nothing has been decided.

“It is on the table. It is something we will consider, but we have a long way to go before that budget submission is here,” Greenert said.

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