March 25, 2013
Credit: General Dynamics
The U.S. Navy seemed headed for the best of times before it hit the budget and sequestration squalls signaling the worst of times, or at least the most challenging of them.
After more than a decade of neglect by the Pentagon as it focused on fighting two ground wars, and then by Navy leadership who allowed major maintenance to lapse as it trained resources on supporting those conflicts, the nation's naval forces were about to get a big boost from the Pacific pivot.
To prepare for the shift, the Navy was heading for a renaissance: repairing and upgrading destroyers and other surface vessels; investing in combat systems technology improvements; and going to sea with new classes of vessels such as the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) or the Military Sealift Command's Joint High-Speed Vessel (JHSV) to penetrate areas where bigger warships might be unable to operate.
But sequestration has put nearly all of that on hold, and in jeopardy. While the planned March 1 deployment to Singapore of LCS-1 USS Freedom is “protected,” as are some other Pacific-related operations, every other program is adrift in doubt.
Indeed, the current budget and funding mess could force the Navy to do what defense analysts say the service should have done years ago—jettison the programs it cannot afford and focus on those it can.
The financial problem for the service now is the way sequestration works, which Navy Secretary Ray Mabus calls “mindless.” It entails a mandatory cut from every program. And the effects of sequestration are exacerbated by the continuing resolution (CR), which caps program spending and expenses at the previous year's levels. Navy officials, analysts and shipbuilding executives say the CR poses the bigger threat.
“The Navy is equally—if not more—concerned about the potential impact on the Navy of an extension of the current continuing resolution,” the Congressional Research Service (CRS) affirms in a recent report.