VCNO Testifies about the Impact of Sequestration on National Security

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mark Ferguson testified before the Senate Committee on Armed Services about the impact of sequestration on national security on Feb. 12, 2013. These are his opening remarks.

Chairman Levin, Senator Inhofe, and distinguished members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify on this important issue.

Simply stated, the combined effect of a year-long continuing resolution and sequestration will reduce our Navy’s overseas presence and adversely impact the material readiness and proficiency of our force—thus limiting the President’s options in time of crisis. Of equal concern, we will irreversibly damage the industrial base that we depend upon to build and maintain our ships and aircraft.

Under these circumstances, we assess your Navy will be limited in its ability to provide the capability and capacity called for in the current defense strategy. The Navy will be unable to execute all of the naval force requirements of the Combatant Commanders.

The impact of the Continuing Resolution is already being felt across the force as we reduce our operations and maintenance spending by $4.6 billion over the remainder of this fiscal year. Because we are operating under a continuing resolution, we also do not have congressional authority to initiate new programs or adjust funding for ongoing programs. Over $5 billion in planned FY13 investments are affected. For example, we will be compelled to delay the start of construction of John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), the completion of America (LHA 6), as well as cancel procurement of an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and hundreds of weapons. Without congressional authority, the carrier Abraham Lincoln must remain moored at Naval Station Norfolk rather than start her overhaul, and we will not be able to complete the current overhaul of the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

These debilitating impacts will be compounded by the devastation of sequestration, should it execute in its present form on March 1st. On that date, the Navy will face an additional reduction in this fiscal year of $4.0 billion to our operation and maintenance account, and a reduction of over $7 billion to our investment accounts.

The immediate impact will be to our fleet operations and depot maintenance. We anticipate reducing flight operations and underway days for our deployed forces, cancelling deployments, deferring more maintenance on ships and aircraft, suspending most non-deployed operations, such as training and certifications, along with other cost cutting measures. We will immediately erode the readiness of the force.

Over the long term, the discretionary budget caps under sequestration will fundamentally change our Navy. We will be compelled to reduce our force structure, our end strength, and investments as we (face) lower funding levels and the altered landscape of our industrial base.

Like many Americans, our Sailors, civilians, and their families are experiencing increased anxiety as a result of this fiscal uncertainty such as the Truman Strike Group that you alluded to, Senator. We must be mindful of the corrosive effect of this uncertainty on the morale of our people, and be vigilant regarding the potential effects of sequestration on the propensity of our force to stay with us, and of new recruits to join. Accordingly, we will make every effort to sustain family and Sailor support programs.

We ask that Congress act quickly to reduce the magnitude of these reductions and replace the mechanism of sequestration with a coherent approach that addresses our national security interests. Additionally, we request the Congress enact an FY13 appropriations bill or other legislation that provides appropriate authorities for new starts and transfer authority between our accounts to address our immediate shortfalls.

We look forward to working with the Congress to resolve this fiscal uncertainty and we must ensure that our Navy remains ready and capable to protect our nation’s security and prosperity. I appreciate the opportunity to testify today and look forward to your questions. Thank you.