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Fleet Forces Commander: 8-10 month Navy deployments ‘not sustainable’

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Posted at 7:00 PM, Sep 24, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-25 09:22:45-04

Norfolk, Va. - Even though the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are coming to an end, demand for the Navy's ships, planes and sailors continues to grow.

“We respond to the nation’s crisis. We are the first to respond,” said Admiral Bill Gortney, the man in charge of the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command.

Admiral Gortney is the one that has to juggle it all, making sure sailors are trained and ready, all while his budget is being slashed by Congress.

“As we look to the future, the challenge is going to be how we sustain that level of presence and level of surge given declining resources,” said Adm. Gortney.

Right now, several local ships like the Barry and the Gravely are still stationed off the coast of Syria.

Both left in February, at sea for more than seven months, much longer than their families expected.

“If this crisis goes on, we are already working on who we can backfill them with, so they can get home to their families, get into the normal rotation cycle, get their maintenance done, so they can recover from the long deployment,” said Adm. Gortney.

Those long deployments are not something that Admiral Gortney wants to continue.

“They range from 8-10 months depending on the platform, it has turned into that over the last few years as routine, and we are very concerned about that,” said Adm. Gortney. “Coming out of war, those aren’t sustainable deployment lengths.”

Still, it will be a tough balancing act.

Adm. Gortney says with budget cuts, the Navy could be slashing more ship maintenance and cutting back on training, so replacements for those on long deployments might not be ready when needed.

“We want to do it as we move forward in a sustainable, long-term manner that brings predictability back into sailors’ lives and gives them time at home with families that we owe them,” said Gortney.

Now it's up to Congress to do the rest and pass a budget to give the Navy more certainty.

They have until September 30th.

Adm. Gortney also talked about his ongoing base security review, that the Secretary of the Navy tasked him with after the Navy Yard shooting.

As commander of Fleet Forces, Adm. Gortney has always been responsible for keeping bases safe from terrorists.

But after Navy contractor Aaron Alexis shot 12 people dead, many are realizing the threat might not always come from the outside.

“The single hardest threat to deal with on installations is the insider threat,” said Adm. Gortney, who acknowledges that problem is made more difficult with gaps in the Pentagon's security clearance process.

“You would weed away any potential bad actors, but there are flaws in that system, clearly,” said Adm. Gortney.

Now, Admiral Gortney is tasked with looking at the Navy's physical security protocols, and determining if they are strong enough to protect against the risks and threats facing bases around the world.

“We always question ourselves and always investigate deeply, looking for the root cause, like ‘why did it happen, what can we do to not let that happen again?’” said Adm. Gortney.

The threats, even present at his own command headquarters last week--after a suspicious person sighting resulted in building evacuations.

“We went through our pre-planned responses for that particular event, and I was pretty pleased with our response as I watched it from my desk,” said Adm. Gortney.

But he was quick to caution that there needs to be balance, so the Navy can operate normally every day, while still preparing for those possible risks.

“We can't lock our bases down, we live on these bases, our families live on these bases,” said Adm. Gortney.

His "quick-look" review on base security will be finished this week and sent to the Secretary of the Navy.

Related: 

Fleet Forces Commander talks about ongoing base security review