Facing $8.5 billion in cuts, Navy begins to prepare for worst

Posted at 8:32 PM, Jan 28, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-28 23:18:43-05

Fewer ships deployed, for longer periods of time, with less mission readiness: that's the message from Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert, who is now laying out what defense cuts would do to the Navy.

The first part of a two-tiered problem, according to Greenert, is that the U.S. government doesn't have a budget for the year.

“The continuing resolution, if we don’t have a bill, and we have to use that the rest of the year, we are on FY 2012 numbers, with an FY 2013 reality, and I have to make up difference,” said Greenert.

The difference: $4.5 billion, to be exact.

Now, NewsChannel 3 is learning firsthand what those cuts would mean to the local Hampton Roads economy.

The start of construction for the new aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy at Newport News Shipyard will be delayed.

Base operating budgets will be cut by 10%, with facility maintenance cut by 50%.

In addition, 10 local ships--including the McFaul, Laboon, Barry, Wasp, Porter, Winston Churchill and Eisenhower--will not get needed repairs done.

“We are talking about $270 million in cancelled ship maintenance this year alone,” said Greenert.

That affects many of the private shipyards around Norfolk, like BAE, General Dynamics NASSCO, and Colonna.

All of this will happen...if Congress does not approve a formal budget for the year.

Then comes the 2nd part of the problem, which according to Greenert, is sequestration.

“I think it is a real possibility. We are preparing accordingly,” said Greenert.

If Congress doesn't reach a deal before March 1st, Greenert says another $4 billion more would have to be cut from the Navy.

That means no more Blue Angels shows or Fleet Week.

Repairs to the Porter and Montpelier--both damaged in collisions--will not happen.

The Navy would actually lower the number of ships deployed at any given time.

Those still allowed to go out to sea would cut flight hours by 50%, and decrease their actual steaming days by 20%--so ships would just sit and float, not moving, and not launching any missions.

Back home, 4 of 9 air carrier wings would have to shut down all their flying.

In addition, training would be reduced for all state-side ships not out on a deployment, and if ships aren't properly trained, they will not be able to leave for future deployments on time.

“The carrier George Herbert Walker Bush, who is starting to prepare to deploy, won’t have all the training they need and that we have a covenant with the combatant commander to deliver. We have to reconcile that, it’s of great concern to me, that’s what we call ‘hollowing out the force,’” said Greenert.

In order to pick up the Bush's slack, the deployments of the carriers Truman and Ike will be extended indefinitely.

“Ships that are out there might have to stay while we reconcile,” said Greenert. “Obviously, its going to be hard on some.”

Already, more than 1,100 local Navy temporary workers have been told they will lose their jobs, and the Navy has stopped hiring any more civilians for the year.

If sequestration goes through -- civilian workers can expect to be furloughed for at least 22 days in the coming year.

NewsChannel 3 contacted Huntington Ingalls, which owns Newport News Shipbuilding, and this is what they had to say about how these Navy cuts affect them.

“We have been working closely with the Navy to determine the impacts of a yearlong continuing resolution and possible sequestration on all of our programs. With respect to sequestration, most of our work for several years is already under contract, so we believe that near-term impacts would be minimal.  However, our supply chain, which consists of nearly 5,000 companies in all 50 states, could be at more immediate risk.  Sequestration’s impacts could thin the shipbuilding supplier base and, over time, make the construction of ships and submarines more expensive. With respect to the possible impacts of a  yearlong continuing resolution, it is premature to speculate about specific impacts, but potential areas of concern for us would be manning at our facilities, increased costs, and issues scheduling future work in our dry docks.  Additionally, there could be significant disruption and hardship created by a yearlong CR on our supplier base.”