In a series of interviews with reporters from across the country, the Navy’s Chief of Information, Rear Adm. John Kirby, addressed current budgetary issues. Here’s what you need to know about the fiscal challenges now facing the Navy.
Question: Because (sequestration) was pushed back to March, it gives you actually a couple of months less to adapt to this. Can the Navy carry out its mandate under these massive cuts? (David Davis, KUSI)
Answer: Our job is to protect and defend the American people at sea, and we’re going to continue to be able to do that. But it is going to be harder in the long term to meet some of those future missions if the uncertainty continues and if we can’t work our way through this. But the goal is to preserve the readiness of forward deployed forces. That preservation will come at the risk of some near-term training and readiness, but we’re going to try to preserve and protect it as much as possible.
Question: If (sequestration) goes through, can you describe, in short term, the crisis. Is it truly a defense crisis if sequestration happens? (David Davis, KUSI)
Answer: It is. I would say this is a huge fiscal problem for the entire federal government, and this is something that’s being lost. It’s not just about the military, not just about the Navy, it’s about the whole federal government. Sequestration effects everybody. I think that is something everybody needs to keep in mind.
Question: What can you do to amplify upon (the current budget issues) for Sailors and their wives that may be concerned about what this is going to mean for them? (Mike Gooding, WVEC)
Answer: I think our main message to our troops and their families is that the personal accounts remain untouched. The President was very clear about that when he spoke about sequestration and the threat of it. So our Sailors and their families are still going to get their pay, they’re still going to get their benefits and the health care that they need. That’s going to stay absolutely intact. That said, because some of the cuts that we’re making and reductions and some of the trimming we’re going to have to do may effect training and readiness, we have to all be prepared that, over the long haul, there may be some impacts in their ability to stay ready to do some of the things that we need them to do for the country.
Question: When you talk about maintenance on ships, that’s actually deferred maintenance which, presumably at some point, to maintain readiness, you would have to spend down the road, right? (Howard Dicus, KGMB, KHNL, KFVE)
Answer: That’s exactly right. It’s like with your car. You can defer maintenance to a certain point, but the longer you put it off, the more maintenance you’re going to have to do eventually and the more it’s going to cost you eventually, not to mention that the vehicle itself becomes a little less reliable and a little less usable. It’s no different with ships. So, in canceling these maintenance periods, we’re going to have to get that maintenance done at some point in the future and that, in itself, is going to effect the operating schedule of that ship and that crew. So, it effects readiness further on down the line in ways that we can’t fully predict right now.
Question: The full-time civilian employees…I assume by now all of them realize that there is, at least at this point, a very real possibility of one day a week furloughs for them? (Howard Dicus, KGMB, KHNL, KFVE)
Answer: I would say there is a possibility of it, but again, this is something that we certainly don’t want to have to do. We greatly treasure our civilian employees. But if sequestration takes effect, that’s a whole different issue than just the continuing resolution that we’re operating under now. If sequestration takes effect, certainly furloughs are something that the leadership is going to have to consider. But there’s been no decisions yet exactly on how that’s going to be implemented and executed, and that’s going to be decided at a level much higher than just us here in the Navy Department.
Question: How worrisome is it to you as a naval leader, though, the Pacific Ocean is as vast as it ever was; the hot spots in the Middle East are as hot as they ever were. When you’re a global force for good, your job is to be forward deployed and go do the things that taxpayers expect for you to do, but yet a ship unmaintained is a ship that can’t necessarily answer the bell. (Mike Gooding, WVEC)
Answer: One of the big focuses here is to preserve forward deployed readiness as much as possible. So the decisions that we’ve made for this fiscal year, these belt-tightening measures, are all designed to make sure that our forward deployed units stay as ready as possible, out there, and can do the things they need to do. The next priority is to preserve the readiness of those that we call “next to deploy” forces, the ones that are getting ready to go. Like the Truman group, which you know is working up right off the coast. So, we’re going to try to preserve their readiness so they can go. But when you start getting into these availabilities, these shipyard maintenance periods, when they start getting canceled, it will have a ripple effect further on down the road and so the “next to next to deploy forces” may, in fact, be impacted. That is going to have an effect on some of that forward deployed readiness well into the future.