By Rear Adm. John Kirby
U.S. Navy Chief of Information
The Navy Department’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget is on the Hill. It’s already faced a hearing in the House Armed Services Committee. And more hearings will occur in coming weeks.
This is a good budget — a solid effort to bring forward many of the things we needed to do this year and to deal with the fiscal constraints every other service is likewise facing.
In fact, I think I can sum it all up in three ways.
First, this budget is measured and sufficient to our needs. There are no Cadillacs here.
We designed it from the outset to comply with the nearly $500 billion dollars in defense cuts that President Obama ordered in 2010 — cuts which we agreed were in keeping with the security environment and with our obligation to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars.
We’re seeking a modest increase for ship depot-level work, but we’re accepting a three-percent reduction in operations and maintenance funding.
We’re growing Navy manpower by about 900 Sailors, but we’re decreasing Marine Corps endstrength to just over 182,000 by fiscal year 2016.
We’re going to decommission 11 ships next year, but we’re building more than 40 new ones over the course of the next five years.
These new ships — to include an additional Ford-class carrier, 10 Virginia-class submarines, 14 littoral combat ships and an additional amphibious assault ship — will replace aging platforms and help stabilize the industrial base upon which we depend.
Second, this budget aligns perfectly with the President’s new Defense Strategy — a strategy that focuses on the Pacific, the Arabian Gulf and on building partnerships around the globe.
Let’s be honest. That defense strategy is at its core a maritime strategy that demands the very attributes resident in the United States Navy and Marine Corps — speed, lethality, forward presence, a light footprint and flexibility.
That’s why we’ve asked for funding to continue deploying Marines to Australia, littoral combat ships to Singapore and submarines to bases in the Pacific.
It’s why we’re moving forward with plans to homeport four ballistic missile defense destroyers in Rota, Spain.
And it’s why this budget calls for continued investments in special operations, in cyber defense capabilities and in the pursuit of innovative technologies like directed energy weapons, unmanned systems and bio-fuels.
As the mission in Afghanistan winds down, our missions at sea and around the world are spinning up. We see nothing in this new strategy, or in current events for that matter, that convinces us freedom of the seas can be taken for granted.
Quite the contrary. America needs its naval forces out there … where it matters and ready when it matters.
Finally, this budget takes care of our people. It preserves their pay and benefits and protects a myriad of family readiness and support programs.
In the Navy, this budget helps stabilize the active duty and reserve force — better matching skills to billets and reducing gaps at sea. In the Marine Corps, the smart manner in which personnel reductions are being managed helps retain the right level of non-commissioned officer and field grade officer experience should an increase one day be required.
We anticipate no major changes to civilian personnel levels. Indeed, our focus on forward basing calls for an increased and enduring demand for remote maintenance support, which is largely provided by civilian talent. We require that talent now more than ever.
As Secretary Mabus made clear, the budget we have submitted does exactly what we need it do. It supports the defense strategy. It stabilizes the industrial base. It builds on the success we’ve achieved in shipbuilding. And it preserves the readiness of our people — readiness that was put at greater risk by sequestration this year.
In short, the Navy Department’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget request ensures that, even in an era of dwindling resources, we can continue to put to sea and field ashore the finest, most capable naval force the world has ever known.
Editor’s note: Today, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mark Ferguson testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee about the Navy’s readiness in review of the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget request.