By Andrea Shalal-Esa
WASHINGTON, Sept 11 U.S. Navy Secretary Ray
Mabus said all Navy and Marine Corps weapons programs were being
examined for possible cuts or cancellation if mandatory,
across-the-board budget cuts remained in effect in coming years.
"Everything's got to be on the table. There are no sacred
cows now," Mabus told military officers at the National Defense
University in Washington. "No matter how well we do it, they're
going to be incredibly hard choices."
Mabus urged lawmakers to give the Pentagon the flexibility
to make choices about implementing $500 billion in cuts over the
Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator
Carl Levin said he was hopeful of reaching a balanced deal to
replace automatic, across-the-board spending cuts. He said a
deal would have to include more spending cuts, reductions in
entitlement programs and new revenues, possibly by closing tax
Current law requires an across-the-board cut of all Pentagon
spending accounts, which will not allow the services to
prioritize their spending levels.
Mabus said the Navy was reviewing service contracts, which
comprise one quarter of its annual spending of $160 billion.
He did not give examples of programs on the chopping block
if mandatory cuts required under sequestration stayed in place,
although he cited decisions in recent years to cancel the
Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle developed by General Dynamics
Corp for the Marines, and to truncate the five-year-old
DDG 1000 destroyer program, also built by General Dynamics.
Defense officials say the Navy is looking at an array of
options, including buying fewer coastal warships built by
Lockheed Martin Corp and Australia's Austal,
and delaying orders for the Navy's F-35 C-model, also built by
Lockheed to land on aircraft carriers.
Lockheed, Austal and other Navy suppliers such as General
Dynamics and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc are
awaiting news about how the Navy would cut spending in its
fiscal 2105 budget plan now being prepared.
The services are working to finalize their plans in coming
days so they can send them to top Pentagon leaders for review.
Mabus said the Navy was doing all it could to protect
training and readiness, but warned that if the cuts stayed in
place, sailors and Marines might have to deploy without adequate
training within 12 to 18 months.
Training and maintenance had already been scaled back, while
protecting funding needed for deployments, but the forecast cuts
would eventually begin to affect those areas, he said.
He said naval forces remained in the Middle East at the
ready to deal with Syria, but ongoing budget cuts could
undermine the Navy's ability to provide those military options
to the president in the future.
"Unless we act to address the damage of continuing
resolutions and sequestration, there are options which may be
limited or just not available in the future," Mabus said.
Continued budget cuts could force the Navy to eliminate more
than three dozen planned maintenance periods for its warships,
and ground more than 200 aircraft.
Mabus also warned that the Navy's efforts to rebuild its
fleet and drive down acquisition costs would be jeopardized if
budget cuts forced it to break multiyear acquisition contracts.