China's Navy Advances as U.S. Budgets Flatten

China1National Harbor, Md. -- The Navy’s top weapons buyer on Wednesday said sequestration is putting the U.S. at a disadvantage in maintaining its technical edge over a rising China in the Pacific.

Sean Stackley, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, told a crowd at the Sea Air Space Exposition that U.S. dominance across the world is owed to “constant investment” in the Navy and Marine Corps.

He chose to single out a recent demonstration of U.S. Naval power last August to highlight his point. It was a test of an airborne-relay sensor aboard the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye that directed a surface-to-air missile fired from the USS Chancellorsville, a guided missile cruiser.

That’s the next great leap,” Stackley said referring to the airborne-relay sensor called the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air System. “This first test of [NIFC-CA] demonstrated our ability to match the reach of our platforms, our sensors, our networks and our weapons in order to extend our battle space beyond the enemy’s reach.”

He chose to highlight the test because it displayed the Navy’s ability to attack over the horizon targets – an important capability should the U.S. enter a war with China and its highly capable radar systems. The Navy must continue to invest in the research and development needed to develop advanced systems like NIFC-CA, Stackley said.

However, the budget cuts have put these investments in danger, he said. Of course, most observers would say the Navy has weathered the recent sequestration cuts the best amongst the services, but the Navy has also seen their expected defense spending flatten.

The reduction in development and procurement of weapons systems reduces the distinct advantage the U.S. military presently enjoys, Stackley said.

“That is our asymmetric advantage, and it is imperiled,” he said mentioning the sequester cuts. “Whether you’re counting numbers of ships, of aircraft, steaming days or flight hours, or training of sailors and Marines ... the fact is that by whatever method you choose to count ... the measure will be less, and in some cases much less.”

He said that Chinese naval leaders don’t have to worry about sequestration as China’s defense budget has risen over recent years.

“The threat is rising ... China knows no sequestration. And their budgets are rising rapidly,” he said.

Of course, China spends only a fraction of what the U.S. does on its military. The U.S. Navy has a larger budget than the entire Chinese military.

However, Stackley said the U.S. still must maintain its military funding and get rid of sequestration.

“It is given to Congress by the Constitution to provide and maintain a Navy,” he said toward the end of the speech. “However it is up to us to educate and inform the Congress on what it is and what it is not the naval strength adequate to provide for our nation’s security.”

For that reason it is imperative that both government and industry do what it can “to rid the budget of any burden that does not go directly to building sea power.”

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