Greenert: Navy Faces Support Shortfalls, Maintenance Backlogs
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 12, 2014 Shrunken but stable Defense Department budgets through fiscal 2015 allow the Navy an acceptable forward presence and have temporarily restored critical training and operations, but the force still faces shortfalls, backlogs and higher risks, the chief of naval operations said today.
Navy Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert joined Navy Secretary Ray Mabus Jr. and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos before the Senate Armed Services Committee to testify on the Navy’s fiscal year 2015 budget request.
“Forward presence is our mandate. We operate forward to give the president the options to deal promptly with contingencies,” Greenert told the panel, directing their attention to small charts he gave them showing the global distribution of deployed ships, bases and support areas.
“Our efforts are focused in the Asia-Pacific, I think you can see that, and the Arabian Gulf,” Greenert said. “But we provide presence and we respond as needed in other theaters as well.”
Over the past year, the Navy influenced and shaped the decisions of leaders in the Arabian Gulf, Northeast Asia and the Levant, and patrolled off the shores of Libya, Egypt and Sudan to protect American interests, he added.
With the Marine Corps, the Navy relieved suffering and provided assistance in the Philippines in the wake of typhoon Haiyan last November, dissuaded coercion against U.S. allies and friends in the East and South China seas, the admiral said, kept piracy at bay in the Horn of Africa and continues to support operations in Afghanistan.
“The 2014 budget will enable an acceptable forward presence. Through the remainder of the year we'll be able to restore a lot of our fleet training and our maintenance and our operations, and we'll recover a substantial part of the 2013 backlog that we’ve talked about quite a bit in this room,” Greenert told the senators.
“The president's 2015 budget submission enables us to continue to execute these missions, but we're going to face some high risk in specific missions articulated in the defense strategic guidance,” he added.
The CNO said the Navy’s fiscal guidance through the DOD five-year Future Year Defense Plan is about halfway between severe cuts required by the Budget Control Act caps, also known as sequestration, and the president’s fiscal 2014 plan. It’s still a net decrease of $31 billion when compared with the president’s fiscal 2014 plan.
To prepare the Navy’s program within those constraints, Greenert said, he set the following priorities and Mabus supported him.
-- Provide a sea-based strategic deterrent;
-- Maintain a forward presence;
-- Maintain the capability and capacity to win decisively;
-- Maintain the readiness to support the above;
-- Maintain and bring in asymmetric capabilities and maintain a technological edge; and
-- Sustain a relevant industrial base.
“Using these priorities, we built a balanced portfolio of capabilities within the fiscal guidance we were provided,” the admiral said. “We continue to maximize our presence in the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, using innovative combinations of rotational forward-based rotational forces, forward basing and forward-stationed forces.”
The Navy still faces shortfalls in support ashore and a backlog in facilities maintenance that erode the ability of its bases to support the fleet, he said, and has slowed modernization in areas that are central to staying ahead of or keeping pace with technologically advanced adversaries.
As a result, “we face higher risk if confronted with a high-tech adversary or if we attempt to conduct more than one multiphase major contingency simultaneously,” he added.
“As I testified before you in September,” he told the committee chairman, “I'm troubled by the prospect of reverting to the Budget Control Act revised caps in 2016. That would lead to a Navy that is just too small and lacking the advanced capabilities needed to execute the missions that the nation expects of the Navy.”
Greenert said such a Navy would be unable to execute at least four of the 10 primary missions laid out in the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance and the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, and its ability to respond to contingencies would be dramatically reduced in that future scenario.
“It limits our options and the nation's decision space, and we would be compelled to inactivate an aircraft carrier and an air wing, he said. “Further, our modernization and our recapitalization would be dramatically reduced, and that threatens our readiness and our industrial base.”
If the nation reverts to the Budget Control Act caps, Greenert added, “year by year it will leave our country less prepared to deal with crises, our allies' trust will wane, and our enemies will be less inclined to be dissuaded or to be deterred.”
In his remarks to the panel, Amos said the Marine Corps, in its partnership with the Navy, gives the nation an unmatched naval expeditionary capability.
“This is why I share the CNO's concerns about the impacts associated with the marked paucity of shipbuilding funds,” he said.
America's engagement throughout the future security environment of the next two decades will be undoubtedly naval in character, the Marine Corps commandant said. To be forward engaged and to be present when it matters most means a need for capital ships, and those ships need to be loaded with United States Marines, Amos added.
“Expeditionary naval forces are America's insurance policy. We're a hedge against uncertainty in an unpredictable world,” the commandant said. “The Navy and Marine Corps team provides power projection from the sea, responding immediately to crises when success is measured in hours, not in days.”
If the nation is saddled with the full eight years of sequestration, Amos said, the Marine Corps will be reduced to 175,000 Marines.
“When we built that force, we started almost a year ago today, and we looked forward expecting sequestration would be signed in March of this past year. So that force of 175,000, with 21 infantry battalions and the appropriate rest of the combat service support, is a fully sequestered force that will maintain itself out into the future,” Amos explained.
To maintain the near-term readiness now of those deployed units and those that are about to deploy, he said, Amos said, he reached into operations and maintenance accounts within his authorities and canceled 17 programs.
“I'll be able to do that for probably another two years,” he added. “But the 36th commandant will reach a point, probably two years from now, where he's going to have to take a look at that readiness level and say, ‘I'm going to have to lower that so I can get back into these facilities [and] my training ranges that I can't ignore, and the modernization.’”
Otherwise, Amos said, “we'll end up with an old Marine Corps that's out of date.”
In his remarks to the Senate panel, Mabus discussed the number of ships the Navy would end up with if sequestration moves ahead as planned. “We would get to a 300-ship Navy by the end of this decade under the current plan, and we would keep it going forward,” the secretary said.
The decommissioning of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington would be an issue, Mabus said. “Three destroyers, one submarine, four support ships, and one afloat forward-staging base that we are currently planning to build -- we could not build at those levels,” He said.
One of the perverse things that happens with sequestration, Mabus said, is that as the Navy takes ships such as destroyers or submarines out of multiyear contracts. “We’re breaking the contracts, which raises the cost of the individual ships,” he told the senators. “So we get fewer, and they cost more.”
In response to a question about whether there is an area he considers a special problem area, the secretary cited fair compensation for service members and what he called the unique characteristic that the Navy and Marine Corps give the nation: presence, which he defined as “the ability to be forward deployed, the ability to have the right number and the right mix of ships forward, the ability to maintain those ships, the ability to have trained crews on those ships.” That presence gives the nation options, he added.
“We -- the CNO, the commandant and I -- are working very hard to protect that presence … with sailors and Marines on those ships to give options to this country,” he said.
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