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Budget restricts Navy, Marine surge capability

The Navy and Marine Corps could lose the ability to surge combined sea forces against a crisis next year under the current and looming budget cuts, top service officials said Wednesday.

“When it comes to a surge capability, it won’t be there” unless Congress lifts or eases the sequester budget cuts that are projected to lop $500 billion off defense spending over the next 10 years, Vice Adm. Allen Myers, deputy chief of Naval Operations, Integration of Capabilities and Resources.

The Marine Corps “will not miss a beat for the next deployment or the next after” but future deployments are questionable, said Marine Assistant Commandant Gen. John Paxton, who joined Myers on a budget panel at the Sea Air Space Expo at National Harbor, Md.

The cuts have left each service looking to scavenge equipment that others are mothballing to save money, said Vice Adm. John Currier, the vice commandant of the Coast Guard.

Currier noted that the Air Force was getting rid of its fleet of C27J transport planes and the Coast Guard is “quite willing to take all 21 aircraft if they become available.”

Paxton and Myers, the deputy chief of naval operations, pointed to a range of uncertainties for their services growing out of the steep drawdown in funding that will see Defense Department spending shrink by $41 billion by the end of the current fiscal year on Oct. 1.

Paxton said the Marines had been counting on money from the account for Overseas Contingency Operations , used to fund the war in Afghanistan,  to overhaul equipment coming out of Afghanistan and get it ready to support the rebalance of forces to the Asia-Pacific region.

But with OCO money evaporating, “you’re going to see a corresponding slowdown in moving gear to the Pacific,” Paxton said.

Paxton also said that the Marines’ long-planned push for a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle to replace the aging Amphibious Assault Vehicles for ship-to-shore movement might have to go back to the drawing board under the budget constraints.

“We’re trying to keep it alive,” Paxton said of the ACV.

Budget cuts associated with sequestration were not reflected in the budgets submitted by the Pentagon Wednesday. However, Myers said “you can be assured there is a high degree of thought being given to those decisions we’ve got to make” if sequester continues.

Paxton said they were following the Defense Department guidance to “not self-sequester” and put the onus on Congress for further cuts.

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