He joins a chorus that includes the current service chiefs, the Secretary of Defense, and the former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in urging political leaders to find a way to stop these debilitating cuts.
Speaking at the Hoover Institution, Roughead reiterated Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s comment that sequestration’s cuts to defense would be “shooting ourselves in the head.” Rather than discuss the dramatic reductions that the Navy’s fleet faces under budget cuts, the retired four-star admiral made the case for why a robust U.S. naval force is necessary:
When people [in Iran] talk about closing the Straits of Hormuz, in the Arabian Gulf, no one can guarantee passage in that critical strait other than the United States.
When we talk about the South China Sea and the East China Sea and causing cooler heads to prevail, so that some of these issues [between China and its neighbors] can be worked out, it’s the United States that provides the credible presence. No one else can do that.
Both geographic areas will likely lose a degree of naval presence if sequestration goes into effect. The Navy is already below its own fleet requirement of 310–316 ships. If the half-trillion-dollar cuts go into effect on January 2, the fleet is projected to fall to around 230 ships.
The Navy is already facing challenges in executing its missions worldwide. Able to cover less water, the Navy will have to consider which responsibilities it must forgo.
Assistant Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter previewed some specific potential fleet cuts caused by sequestration at a House Armed Services Committee hearing in August 2012. He cited delays in the development of the next aircraft carrier, the new Littoral Combat Ship program, and the restart of the DDG-51 destroyer line.
The President’s budget projection also causes shortfalls in the replacement program for the aging Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine fleet, the highly touted Virginia-class attack submarine program, and both short- and long-term naval air assets, which are obviously crucial to aircraft carriers’ effectiveness.
At the final presidential debate, Obama surprisingly declared of sequestration, “It will not happen.” Yet prior to this statement, he was one of the only officials standing in the way of a solution to avert this “meat-axe” cut, threatening to veto such measures unless they included tax increases. Congress needs to work responsibly to stop additional cuts to defense so that the Navy and other services can continue to provide for the common defense.