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Navy paints even bleaker budget picture

6:33 AM, Feb 20, 2013   |    comments
Navy honor guard marches along Pennsylvania Avenue during the Inaugural parade following US President Barack Obama's second inauguration as the 44th US president on January 21, 2013 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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With Congress on a break - and no budget deal in sight - the Navy expects automatic spending cuts to take effect in March. These cuts would damage the industrial base and "strain" sailors, according to updated Navy budget guidance provided to Navy Times on Tuesday.

The service's planning document echoes the dire warnings made last week by the Navy's top officers and provides the best preview yet of the countless impacts that the cuts will impose on the fleet.

The Navy faces dual budget crises this year: $4 billion in automatic "sequestration" spending cuts and $4.6 billion in cuts if the military continues to be funded at last year's levels.

In the new guidance, the Navy says that the lack of a Pentagon spending bill impairs $5 billion in shipbuilding, a three-fold increase over the last estimate.

Under the document's "impacts" section, the Navy states the continuing resolution will impose: "reduced forward presence," "a damaged industrial base," "increased strain and OPTEMPO on our sailors and civilians," and "aircraft depot cuts." The purchase of a second Virginia-class attack submarine and a second destroyer in fiscal 2014 would now be "unlikely."

The Navy says these individual cuts are "representative" so as to show lawmakers and the public possible affects of deep spending cuts.

The sequestration cuts, the Navy warns, will pierce much deeper.

The Navy's document says it will force the service to cancel 10 destroyer and frigate cruises; cancel the Bataan Amphibious Readiness Group deployment; halt work-ups for the Ronald Reagan and Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Groups; reduce exercises and port calls; defer repairs and cancel overhauls; and cancel F-35B testing aboard amphibious assault ship Wasp, among many other impacts.

All these combined effects will hamper the Navy's ability to respond to crises, the service says.

It will result in "immediate coverage gaps in multiple COCOMs," the Navy document said, using the abbreviation for combatant commanders. Four strike groups would "shut down at various intervals:" John C. Stennis, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and Theodore Roosevelt. And over time, the fleet would shrink by as many as 40 ships.

NAVY TIMES

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