Mabus: Navy Prepared for More Budget Uncertainty

By Valerie Insinna
Just hours after President Barack Obama unveiled his fiscal year 2014 budget, the Navy’s top civilian leader asserted the only sure bet is that the Navy and Marine Corps will see more cuts no matter what budget is passed.
Both the president's and Senate's budgets make reductions to military spending over 10 years, but concentrate those cuts toward the end of that period. That gives the Navy time to make tough, but informed choices, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said at an April 10 speech at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Expo in National Harbor, Md.
"Everybody's position going forward — the president, the Senate [and] the House — is that cuts to defense should be smarter, and smaller,” he said. “But if an agreement isn't reached, if Congress doesn't come up with a solution, then sequester — which neither Congress nor the president wants to continue — will continue. Taking no action is an action all in itself."
Under current law, the Budget Control Act signed in 2011 will slash about $500 billion from the Defense Department over 10 years.
After a decade of war, the American people expects those cuts and “these reductions allow us to find some efficiencies, to root out overspending, waste and to match dollars to strategy," Mabus said.
But because of sequestration, the Navy and Marine Corps must cut an additional $4.3 billion from operations and maintenance accounts and $6 billion from investment accounts in the last six months of the 2013 fiscal year, he said.
If legislation remains unchanged, sequestration will carve out $52 billion of fiscal year 2014’s Defense Department spending, with $500 billion in cuts across the decade.
Obama’s budget effectively ignores sequestration, proposing in its place an additional $150 billion in defense cuts over 10 years.
“These cuts, though are concentrated toward the end of that time, giving us an opportunity to plan,” Mabus said.
The Senate’s budget resolution, which reduces defense spending by $250 billion over that time period, doesn’t backload those cuts as much as the president’s budget, Mabus said. Still, it will allow the Navy to do some planning ahead of time.
Unmentioned by the secretary was Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposed budget, which was passed by the House in March and shifts most of the defense cuts to other non-defense discretionary spending.
Despite the uncertain fiscal situation, the Pentagon’s “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific will allow some expansion to the Navy’s fleet. Under the president’s budget plan, it would grow to 300 ships before the end of this decade, Mabus said.
The service will base four guided missile destroyers in Spain in the coming years to conduct ballistic missile defense patrols and do security cooperation with European and Africa Commands, he said.
It also plans on stationing four littoral combat ships in Singapore “to work with our partners and help develop maritime security in the vast littorals of the Asia-Pacific region,” Mabus said.
Integrating manned and unmanned systems also will continue to be an area of emphasis, he said. “We’re going to continue our push for aviation, surface and subsurface unmanned systems to get into the fleet."
Photo Credit: Navy

Topics: Defense Department, DOD Budget

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