The Navy has acknowledged its budgetary concerns and is hedging for further cuts by laying out priorities and describing what will be hit hardest, according to a Department of Navy memo obtained by Politico.
The document acknowledges that both Navy and Marine Corps operations and maintenance (O&M) accounts will be hit the hardest and that the still-looming sequestration and an unstable budget process have led to serious planning uncertainty for the sea service. The bottom line is that Navy readiness will suffer.
The memo’s priorities list includes sensible recommendations such as “implement a civilian hiring freeze.” However, some of the recommendations will hurt national security and potentially cost more in the long run.
For example, the document recommends that the Navy delay decommissionings while also “curtail[ing] remaining facility sustainment restoration and modernization programs.” This means that older, higher-mileage ships will remain in service longer, but the support activities that keep them running will receive less funding.
Naval experts have referred to a “vicious cycle” whereby procurement money is siphoned off to support the maintenance of existing vessels, which in turn means there are fewer new ships to replace them, meaning they stay in service longer, and so on. Keeping these vessels in the fleet longer while also taking away their O&M money is a vicious cycle of its own—and it’s a recipe for ships that cannot operate.
Naval readiness is already in a poor state. The fleet is shrinking and is headed for a record low. This is resulting in missed carrier assignments, failure to meet strategic submarine requirements, and more frequent mechanical breakdowns throughout the fleet. New programs to replace aging vessels have been delayed or canceled.
While the President undermines the significance of a robust U.S. naval fleet, Congress needs to ensure that the sea service is provided with the resources it needs to continue protecting U.S. waters. America is a maritime nation—we require a strong Navy to protect American interests.