WASHINGTON – As the Navy faces a projected shortfall of about $25 billion below the president’s fiscal year 2016 budget request, sequestration and the continuing funding resolution have degraded the service’s readiness and capabilities, the chief of naval operations told Congress March 4.
In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee, Navy Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert praised the resilience of more than 600,000 active and reserve sailors, Navy civilians and their families, including some 41,000 sailors who are underway and deployed, but he expressed concern about the inevitable toll on people and assets.
“Navy readiness is at its lowest point in many years,” Greenert reported. “The budget reductions have forced us to cut afloat and ashore operations, it has generated a ship and aircraft maintenance backlog, and it has compelled us to extend unit deployments.”
Since 2013, Greenert said, many Navy ships have been on deployments for 8 to 12 months or longer, depleting personnel resilience and the service life of assets. Degraded readiness posture, he added, has also adversely affected the Navy’s ability to satisfy contingency response requirements
Combatant Commander Requirements
In addition to currently deployed assets, combatant commanders require three carrier strike groups and three amphibious ready groups deployable within 30 days in response to a major crisis, the admiral told the panel.
“That’s our covenant with them,” Greenert said. “However, on average, we have been able to keep only one carrier strike group and one amphibious ready group in this readiness posture, so we are at one-third [of] the requirement.”
In a best-case scenario of an on-time, adequate and stable budget without major contingencies, the Navy possibly could rebound from the accumulated backlog by 2018 for its carrier strike groups and by 2020 for its amphibious ready groups -- five years after the first round of sequestration.
Risks to Modernization, Deterrence
But sequestration’s wake, the admiral noted, could spur a litany of additional problems, including slowed modernization growth and a subsequently diminished technical edge to field emerging capabilities for future fights.
Budget shortfall impacts in the past three years have led to the continuing decline of the Navy’s relative warfighting advantage in several areas, Greenert told the senators, notably in anti-surface, anti-submarine and air-to-air warfare and in integrated air and missile defense.
Also at stake is the Navy’s ability to deter and defeat aggression, project power and maintain safe and credible sea-based strategic deterrence, he said.
“The budget request represents the floor,” Greenert added, “and any funding level below the submission will require a revision to our strategy.”