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AFCEA West 2013

Naval chief outlines budget's impact on San Diego

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, outlined some of the changes on board for San Diego should budgetary constraints reach their peak.

During a press panel at AFCEA/USNI West 2013, a three-day defense conference at the San Diego Convention Center that wrapped up on Thursday, he assured that shipbuilding and maintenance in motion will not be stopped.

“We won't be breaching contracts this year," he said. "When I say 'go where the money is,' it's things that aren't yet under contract.”

There are 46 ships and submarines under contract but not delivered, five of which are amphibious ships.

“We aren't going to shelve those and pull those out of the ship build. We will finish the contract," Greenert said.

Under its plan to rebalance to the Pacific, sequestration would threaten rotational deployments. Out of 50 ships out there at any given time, 10 are supported by rotational deployments, he explained.

Ships that are forward would stay forward; the ones that could get hit would be coming from the continental United States.

“I think the defense strategy is solid. I am comfortable with where our budget request is and where we are aligned to support the defense strategy,” he said.

The Navy is not not entering unchartered waters by shifting to the Pacific.

"We've been in Asia for about 10 years,” Greenert noted, with 40 to 50 ships out there at any given time.

The plan is to increase that number of ships to 60 by the end of the decade, despite continuing resolution and sequestration woes.

“Capacity may be different, but our concepts and capabilities will be the same as we approach this,” Greenert said.

With seven months left in the fiscal year, cuts likely will have to be made to meet the budget by year's end.

“We have been operating for five months as if we've had a full year's worth of money to meet our fiscal year 2013 requirements,” he said.

Finding where cuts can be made means looking where the money is. Right now, that would affect third- and fourth-quarter ship maintenance.

“It looks to me there is $220 million worth of work in jeopardy right now,” Greenert said, referring to San Diego's shipyards.

That means there would be ships that won't get the maintenance they need.

“I'd like to make that up and I will as soon as possible,” Greenert said.

How those delayed maintenance periods affect schedules is a point of concern for him, he said.

The number of ships in the inventory will grow to 285 in 2017, and by 2020, under the current build rate, up to 295 ships will be in the inventory.

There are other contracts for support, too.

“The sustainment, restoration, modernization project done is very much by private contractors here in the San Diego area,” Greenert said. “They are in the $100 million or more that are in jeopardy as well. We'd have to cancel those to meet the budget to close out in fiscal year 2013.”

Despite maintenance cutbacks, he reiterated that safety won't be sacrificed.

“Safety of people, of equipment, of deployed operations and those deployed right now will get our top priority,” he said.

Those who are about to deploy will also get what they need to deploy, he added.

“Near-term items in the next quarter or so -- that is where we will focus the dollars,” Greenert said.

Another area where money will stay is the unmanned space.

The Navy's X-47B umanned combat air system, which will demonstrate the first carrier launches this year, is still a go.

“We are on track to do that demo,” he said. “That is already under contract and fully funded. They have been taxiing her around. All good so far."

Unmanned underwater vehicles that are already funded still have the green light, he added.

“In the future, unmanned is a priority and a capability we need to bring in, regardless,” he said.

It's not just equipment and maintenance that stands to feel the brunt of sequestration and the continuing resolution; civilian personnel working for the government could also be impacted.

“That is on the table for a reduction,” he said.

They stand to succumb to a 22-day furlough spread out across a six-month period.

“That will certainly have an impact on San Diego in a big way,” he said. “With the White House determining when it would start, how it would be managed and for how long.”

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