Anchors aweigh: Visiting admiral says the Navy can cope with cuts
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Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, chief of naval operations, the U.S. Navy's representative on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a native of Butler, visited Pittsburgh Monday and spoke to the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh.
He provided the audience, composed of representatives of Pittsburgh's business, academic, media and other foreign affairs communities, a broad outline of the Navy's mission, resources and current deployment. It currently possesses 286 ships, with 102 deployed at bases, places and crossroads across the world. It anticipates additions to bring the number to 295 ships, with 114 deployed in future years.
The admiral commented on several issues that are currently in flux. One is what President Barack Obama's policy pivot to U.S. concentration on Asia means for the Navy. Absent a significant increase in resources, it will be a modest move for the United States away from the Middle East and South Asia, consistent with the end of the Iraq War in 2011 and the ongoing U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan to be completed in 2014. He spoke of no peace dividend for Americans at the end of the two wars.
A second is the impact on the Navy of the sequestration of funds that began March 1, which will mean for the Navy $11 billion less for operations than had been anticipated. Explaining the gravity of the cuts, including the fact that they would have to result in a reduction in the deployment of ships, Adm. Greenert nonetheless gave the strong impression that in terms of national defense the Navy would cope with what was occurring.
What it had most difficulty with was the uncertainty on funding that was occurring as White House, congressional, Republican and Democratic wrangling left the Navy -- and the rest of the federal government -- unclear as to how much it would have to work with over the coming months and further into the future. Adm. Greenert's explanation of the Navy's planning process, which has to fold in four ships for every one deployed, made it clear without his saying so that, in spite of the agility of its planners, not knowing where it stood in terms of money was not useful.
He didn't, but it could be put this way: America will not be left defenseless in terms of national security in the face of sequestration or other cuts, but what is happening in Washington at the moment demands too many twists and turns to permit efficient, cost-effective use of naval or other resources.
It was useful for Pittsburghers to hear a warfighter such as the admiral discuss these issues with them, as voters and taxpayers.
First Published March 6, 2013 12:00 am