Sequestration — Impacts on Our People and Our Navy

This blog was written by the Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mark Ferguson.

U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY (Aug. 14, 2012) Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) Adm. Mark Ferguson speaks with Sailors aboard aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65). VCNO is visiting deployed Sailors and leadership in the U.S. Central Command area of operations to thank Navy personnel and demonstrate the continued commitment to regional partners and allies. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jared King/Released)

Last month I had the great fortune to visit a number of our Sailors forward deployed in Fifth Fleet – the Middle East and Arabian Gulf. I spent time on both of our aircraft carriers, our minesweepers, our patrol craft, and other ships in the region. All told, I visited 12 ships and talked to more than 10,000 of our Sailors. At every forum, these Sailors — from the most junior to our operational commanders — expressed concern regarding what sequestration might mean to our Navy and their service. It became clear to me that the uncertainty of our fiscal future was increasingly on the minds of our force.

After answering questions and listening to their feedback I committed to those Sailors that I would share these concerns with Navy leadership and with policy and decision makers at the highest levels of our government.

ARABIAN SEA (August 12, 2012) Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) Adm. Mark Ferguson meets with Sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tony Bloom/Released)

Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to testify before the House Armed Services Committee to discuss the potential impacts of sequestration on our Navy.

If enacted, sequestration would trigger $1.2 trillion in automatic government spending cuts. The Department of Defense and Navy would absorb an appreciable portion of those cuts –resulting in far-reaching consequences across all of the services.

Below are highlights of the information I shared with the Committee.

Based on our preliminary look, we believe that sequestration would reduce funding in the next year by nearly $12 billion. Should sequestration occur, it would force us to make difficult choices beginning roughly around March or April in three broad categories:

-fleet operations and maintenance

-procurement (building our future Navy)

-force structure (the number of ships, aircraft and systems we are able to have now)

The immediate impact of sequestration will be to our operations and maintenance accounts, with a reduction of more than $4 billion. This account pays for our day-to-day fleet operations, maintenance, spare parts, civilian personnel and training, all of which directly support fleet readiness. These reductions will translate to reduced flying hours for our aircrews, fewer underway training days for our ships and submarines, and less maintenance for the fleet. This will impact our industrial base (the people who build and help fix our hardware) and ultimately the service life of the equipment we rely on to keep America safe.

We will prioritize expenditures to ensure that our forward-deployed forces continue to be properly manned, trained, and equipped. As a result, non-deployed or stateside forces will see a disproportionate share of reductions under sequestration.

Leadership have committed to 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.

Sequestration will also reduce the upcoming year’s shipbuilding and aircraft procurement accounts by another $4 billion. It will require adjustments to major acquisition and modernization programs, and will reduce funding for research laboratories and technology development centers. At this point, it is difficult to know for sure the impact on any individual program, or family of programs, since each contract contains unique and complex provisions, dates, and pricing. Also, a change in one program may have cascading effects on investments in other inter-related programs in the future. What we do know is that it will surely affect our ability to build the future Navy.

While we will make every effort to sustain our shipbuilding and procurement programs, the prescriptive and mechanical nature of sequestration affords us limited flexibility to mitigate the impact of these reductions.

The Navy’s budget submission for this year already reflects difficult choices. The money that we requested balances our investments in infrastructure, future capability, operations, maintenance, and training to sustain the ready force that the American people have grown to know.

Potential cuts or reductions beyond those already taken in this year’s proposed budget will result over time in a smaller force with less presence, longer response times, and reduced ability to provide surge forces in support of our major war plans and other emergent needs.

Bottom line: we discussed in real detail that if sequestration is enacted in January and these cuts continue as planned, we will not be able to afford the Navy we have today in the future.

I will continue to provide updates and share information on sequestration and other issues on the minds of our Sailors and their families. My goal is to provide accurate and timely information and help alleviate uncertainty.