Task force: Budget fix requires extreme cuts

Lance M. Bacon. Navy Times, 28 June 2010.


With an eye on diminishing budgets and rising tensions with Iran and North Korea, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead on June 24 called for continued international partnerships to hone a “just and sustainable international order.” He also continued his call for fiscal restraint, emphasizing that the Navy “cannot afford a tailor-made solution to every need that we have.” But the CNO still is adamant that a 313-ship Navy is needed to maintain maritime security.

Editor’s Comment:

Lance M Bacon quotes from a speech by Chief of Naval Operations Roughead at the Maritime Systems and Technology seminar on June 22nd. These quotes are misleading because Roughead is speaking not about reducing the national deficit, but rather about the Navy’s need to watch its spending in the context of growing fiscal pressures on service budgets.

Roughead remains committed to the goal of a 313 ship battle fleet. He also supports Secretary Gate’s initiative to save $105 billion within DoD accounts over the next five years. Gates’ savings will not contribute a penny to deficit reduction. He plans to plow all savings back into Pentagon programs and it is the Navy’s share of this money that Roughead wants to use to help grow the battle fleet to 313 ships.

Not only is Gates not offering to contribute to deficit reduction, but he is sticking to his goal of real growth of 1 to 2% a year for in Pentagon budgets. This will increase annual national deficits somewhere in the range of $6 to 12 billion.

Gates’ position is untenable and will not hold. If the nation is going to meet its deficit reduction commitments the Pentagon will have to contribute its share — which is at least 40% of the $230 billion a year increase in its base (non-war) budget during the last decade. This is the level of cuts the task force has suggested — it is not “extreme”, but rather responsible and realistic.

In the context of the coming national fiscal restraint, the worst thing the CNO can do is continue pushing to grow the Navy battle fleet to 313 ships. The more success he has in buying now what will prove to be unaffordable new ships, the further the fleet will have to shrink when austere budgeting arrives.

Far wiser is to start reconfiguring and trimming the fleet now and save procurement dollars for a more realistic set of priorities and a more restrained strategic posture. The task force has put forward one set of priorities for lean times. Let others suggest theirs.

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