Navy: Pacific pivot is the guiding principle
WASHINGTON — Navy officials unveiled the service’s budget plans Tuesday, which are aimed at ensuring the U.S. military can effectively pivot toward the Asia-Pacific and handle anti-access technological challenges being developed by countries like China.
“The rebalance to the Pacific was absolutely a focus not only of the [Quadrennial Defense Review], but [of] this budget,” Rear Adm. William Lescher, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget told reporters at the Pentagon. “You see a very strong focus overall and support in this budget for that shift.”
At a time when the Army and the Air Force will undergo force reductions, Navy active-duty end strength would remain virtually unchanged through 2019. The Navy Reserve would drop from 59,100 sailors to 57,300 in 2015.
The baseline request for 2015 is $125.2 billion, down just $400 million from last year’s enacted budget.
The Navy has an aggressive shipbuilding program scheduled for its Five-Year Defense Plan. The Navy plans to buy a new aircraft carrier, 10 nuclear submarines, 10 destroyers, and 14 littoral combat ships over the next five years. The total number of battle force ships is expected to increase from 291 to 309 during that time period. But Lescher noted that these numbers are subject to change depending on force level decisions to be made in 2016.
However, the Navy cut in half the number of F-35C Joint Strike Fighters that it planned to buy over the next five years, from 69 to 36 because of “affordability” issues, according to Lescher. In addition, 11 cruisers will be placed on reduced operating status while they await modernization in an effort to save money.
The Navy would maintain 11 carrier groups under the budget proposal for at least another year, but officials will reexamine the cost of maintaining the USS George Washington in 2016.
Lescher warned that if sequestration goes back into effect in 2016, the Navy Department will take a $39 billion budget hit over the course of the FYDP, which would necessitate cuts to the fleet, including:
■ Inactivation of a carrier and decommissioning of an air wing.
■ Removing six surface combatants from service.
■ Eliminating the planned procurements of three destroyers.