MANILA, Philippines — U.S. military budget cuts are unlikely to affect America's ability to respond to major natural disasters and humanitarian crises in Asia, where it has led multinational drills to prepare for emergencies, a U.S. Navy official said Tuesday.
U.S. allies in Asia including the Philippines have turned to Washington for help in dealing with a range of problems, including territorial disputes with China, terrorism and calamities in one of the world's most disaster-prone regions.
Hefty budget cuts, however, have had an impact on the U.S. military as it grapples with increasing security worries worldwide.
A U.S. Navy official gave assurances that the budgetary challenges have not affected and are unlikely to hamper the American military's ability to provide help when major disasters strike Asia.
"All countries around the world face pressures on their budgets but I don't see U.S. budget challenges affecting our ability to respond to humanitarian disaster relief," Rear Adm. Kathleen Creighton said in response to a reporter's question in Manila.
"We're asked, then we respond through our government," she said. "I would say, in general, there is the same capability to respond."
Creighton spoke in a news briefing on the sidelines of disaster-response drills sponsored by the U.S. Pacific Command and designed to improve communications among military and civilian responders in major disasters. Participants from 21 countries in the indoor drills used a mock scenario of a 7.2-magnitude earthquake hitting the bustling Manila metropolis to test their ability to communicate in the midst of a catastrophe.
The U.S. military led an international response when Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most ferocious storms on record to hit land, devastated the central Philippines in November 2013, leaving more than 7,300 people dead or missing and leveling entire villages.