The effects of the looming sequestration are already being felt at the Pentagon as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta delayed the deployment of two ships to the Persian Gulf region.
The supercarrier USS Harry S. Truman and the guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg were scheduled to leave Norfolk, Va., for the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
“Facing budget uncertainty — including a continuing resolution and the looming potential for across-the-board sequestration cuts — the U.S. Navy made this request to the secretary and he approved,” said Pentagon Press Secretary George Little. “This prudent decision enables the U.S. Navy to maintain these ships to deploy on short notice in the event they are needed to respond to national security contingencies.”
“The United States will continue to maintain a robust military presence in the CENTCOM region, including the current carrier presence and a mix of other assets, to fulfill enduring commitments to our partners,” he added. “The U.S. military continues to stand ready to respond to any contingency and to confront any threat in the region.”
Sequestration cuts were pushed to March 1 in the New Year’s Eve fiscal cliff deal, but no deal has yet been struck to avoid steep cuts that Pentagon officials warn would gut national defense.
The congressman who represents the Norfolk port said the announcement is “an early indication of the challenge our region will face if sequestration is not averted.”
“I urge the President and the Senate to consider these alternatives passed by the House to avert sequestration. The seriousness of this situation cannot be overstated,” Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) said. “These cuts have the potential to devastate our region and, as we can see by today’s announcement, the impact on our community and our forward presence has already begun.”
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) — joined by Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — today unveiled the Down Payment to Protect National Security Act of 2013, which would prevent a further round of cuts in Fiscal Year 2013 from hitting our military as a result of sequestration, beyond the $46 billion reduction already imposed over the last two years.
“Yesterday, the President opened the door to a short term resolution of sequestration, but his proposal is unbalanced, irresponsible and unacceptable. Moreover, he never suggested that his proposal was intended to buy time to fix the real drivers of our debt,” McKeon said.
“Another round of cuts required as a result of full sequestration would devastate our Armed Forces. Republicans don’t want to go into sequester, but the President will force us there if he insists on a plan that shirks his responsibility to the troops, that is bad for national security and bad for the economy.”
The Senate Armed Services will hold a hearing Tuesday on the sequestration cuts, with testimony from Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, and leaders from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and National Guard.