US Navy CNO Stresses Importance of Sailors’ Safety Despite Budget Cuts
Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert addressed the impact of Department of Defense budget cuts and the Pentagon’s “Pacific Pivot” shift in operational focus during a visit to San Diego Jan. 31.
His visit to the San Diego area commenced with a mass reenlistment and all-hands call at Naval Base Coronado. Greenert then travelled to the San Diego Convention Center to speak at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA)/ U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) West 2013 conference.
Greenert acknowledged the brunt of the budget cuts would affect the Navy’s operation and maintenance activities, but emphasized the importance of keeping the Sailors and equipment safe.
“We have seven months left in the year, and we have to go to where the money is. In San Diego, there’s about $220 million worth of private shipyard work in jeopardy right now. We would have ships that perhaps won’t get the maintenance they need, and I’d like to make that up as soon as possible,” he said. “But safety will be funded. The safety of people, equipment and deployed operations will be our top priority. We cannot risk safety. We won’t do that.”
The cuts include eliminating private-sector surface ship maintenance availability and aircraft depot maintenance from April-September 2013, freezing civilian hiring and curtailing non-mission-essential travel and training. In the event sequestration is triggered in March, the Navy will have to cut an additional $4 billion for fiscal year 2013. These cuts could include stopping deployments to the Caribbean and South America; reducing the number of deployed ships and aircraft, days at sea and flying hours; and limiting European deployments to those supporting ballistic missile defense missions.
Greenert proceeded to join Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos and Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. in a roundtable discussion panel addressing the convention’s theme, “Pivot to the Pacific: What are the Practical and Global Implications?” at a luncheon. President Barack Obama’s November 2011 speech to the Australian parliament emphasized the Asia-Pacific region’s value to the national defense strategy.
“As we end today’s wars, I have directed my national security team to make our presence and mission in the Asia-Pacific a top priority. As a result, reductions in U.S. defense spending will not – I repeat, will not -come at the expense of the Asia-Pacific,” Obama said in the speech.
Greenert discussed the role of the Navy in the defense strategy, noting the intrinsic value the Navy provides in achieving the missions through decades of experience.
“I think the defense strategy is solid and I’m very comfortable with how we are aligned to support the strategy. I call it a rebalance. A pivot is a left face where you turn on your heels, but the Navy has been in Asia for about 10 years,” he said. “We’ve had 40 to 50 ships out there for over 10 years at any given time, and we will increase those numbers from 50 today to 60 by the end of the decade.”
Greenert noted the Navy’s budget measured the capabilities the Navy is buying and developing to the Asia-Pacific region. He also emphasized the importance of strengthening ties with Singapore, Japan, Korea and Australia.
“It’s nourishing or re-nourishing relationships we already have, and developing new ones in and around there, and taking it to the next level to operate together better and posture ourselves to deal with issues of the future,” he said.
The AFCEA/USNI West 2013 conference is the 22nd iteration of the event, and attracted more than 10,000 attendees over the course of three days.
Naval Today Staff, February 4, 2013; Image: US Navy