In my last blog, I described for you how sequestration in FY 2014 will impact our operations, readiness, and investments. Today, I’d like to describe for you a potential future scenario in which sequestration-level reductions remain in place over the long term.
A Potential Future Scenario If Sequestration-level Reductions Continue
If sequestration-level reductions persist in the years after FY 2014, the Navy of 2020 would not be able to execute the missions described in our defense strategy, the Defense Strategic Guidance (or DSG). There are many ways we can adjust Navy’s budget, but any scenario to address budget reductions must include sufficient readiness (maintenance and training), capability, and manpower to complement the force structure (number ships and aircraft) in the fleet. This balance would need to be maintained to ensure each unit will be effective, even if the overall fleet is not able to execute the DSG.
The potential scenario I laid out for the House Armed Services Committee last week would result in a “2020 Fleet” of about 255-260 ships, about 30 less than today, and about 40 less than planned in the budget we submitted to Congress this past February. It would include 1-2 fewer Carrier Strike Groups (CSG), and 1-2 fewer Amphibious Ready Groups (ARG) than today. As a result, this “2020 Fleet” would not be able to meet the DSG direction regarding forward presence:
· We would not increase our global deployed presence, which would remain at today’s level of about 95 ships in 2020. The lethality inherent in this presence, based on ship types deployed, would be less than today’s 95-ship presence.
· We would not increase presence in the Asia-Pacific, which would stay at about 50 ships in 2020. This would largely negate the ship force structure portion of our plan to rebalance to the Asia Pacific region as directed by the DSG.
· We would not follow the DSG’s direction to “place a premium on U.S. military presence in—and in support of—partner nations” in the Middle East, since presence would decrease and, assuming we use the same ship deployment scheme in the future, there would be gaps in CSG presence totaling 2-3 months each year.
· We would still “evolve our posture” in Europe by meeting our ballistic missile defense European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) requirements with four BMD-capable DDG homeported in Rota, Spain and two land based sites in Romania and Poland. Additional presence would still be provided by forward operating JHSV, MLP, AFSB and some rotationally deployed combatants.
· We would still provide “innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches” to security in Africa
The DSG also requires that the Armed Services be able to conduct 10 primary missions, from counter-terrorism to strategic deterrence. Most notably, the 2020 Fleet in this scenario would not be able to execute the mission to Deter and Defeat Aggression, which requires that the military be able to conduct one large-scale operation and also counter aggression by an opportunistic aggressor in a second region. The 2020 fleet would sustain one CSG and one ARG deployed in the Middle East and Pacific, but only would have one non-deployed CSG and one non-deployed ARG ready and able to surge; this is not enough to execute the DSG. According to our Force Structure Assessment (FSA), the 2020 fleet would be able to conduct either one large-scale major combat operation or respond to smaller conflicts in two separate regions.
The 2020 fleet would also fall behind in another important DSG mission: Project Power Despite Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) Challenges. Capability improvements, particularly in air and missile defense, would deliver later than planned and in smaller numbers. The fleet’s transition to the P-8A Poseidon, the F-35C Lightning II, and the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye would all be slowed down and fewer of these next-generation aircraft would be in service at the end of this decade. Important new capabilities such as the LCS Anti-Submarine Warfare Mission Package, improved surface ship electronic warfare capabilities, the Air and Missile Defense Radar, the Navy Integrated Fire Control-Counter-Air (NIFC-CA) system, and new infrared and radio frequency “kill chains” for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (including the next versions of the AIM-9 and AIM-120 air-to-air missiles) would all be delayed or reduced in number.
The DSG also requires that U.S. forces be able to Counter Terrorism and Conduct Irregular Warfare. Today we dedicate several ships to support special operations forces in degrading terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda. According to our FSA, the 2020 fleet would be able to provide this dedicated support in the future.
I am optimistic that we will be able to work with Congress and find solutions to these budget challenges. In particular, we will work to protect and improve your “Quality of Service.” To me, Quality of Service is a combination of our Quality of Life (our pay, benefits, housing, family support, etc.) and our Quality of Work – whether we feel like our work is making a difference and is satisfying. To deal with the constraints on the defense budget in the coming years, we will need to consider slowing the rate of increase in our pay and benefits. At the same time, however, we must ensure we stay proficient when we are home and are able to do good work and make a difference when we deploy.
Coming up with a long-term budget plan and defense strategy will be the main challenges back here in Washington for a while. Out in the fleet, however, I ask that you continue to view each of the difficult choices we face through the lens of my three tenets: Warfighting First, Operate Forward, and Be Ready. I look forward to seeing you in the fleet.
JONATHAN W. GREENERT
Admiral, U.S. Navy