During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today focusing on the Navy's budget for 2013, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) expressed concern that across the board military spending cuts associated with defense sequestration slated for January threaten to diminish the nation's attack submarine fleet - inviting severe national security risks. While Ayotte has worked to find responsible savings within the Pentagon's budget, she believes the draconian cuts facing the Defense Department threaten military readiness - and could add a national security crisis to the nation's fiscal crisis.
In response to questions from Senator Ayotte, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, testified that the current proposed budget, which requires $487 billion in defense reductions over the next nine years, will result in the Navy having only 39 attack submarines in 2030-despite a requirement for 48 attack submarines. Admiral Greenert also confirmed for Ayotte that last year the Navy was only able to support 61 percent of the combatant commander's requirements for attack submarines.
Admiral Greenert also testified that the proposal to postpone the procurement of a Virginia Class submarine from 2014 to 2018 would only "exacerbate" the future shortfall in attack submarines.
Senator Ayotte said: "I'm very concerned that the Navy can currently only support 61 percent of our combatant commander's requirements for attack submarines. The current budget proposal will only make this shortfall worse. Our defense spending must be based on our national security interests - not a random number picked by Congress as part of the ill-advised debt limit deal, which I opposed."
The Navy currently has 285 ships-which includes submarines. Yet, in March 2011, former Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughead, testified that the Navy requires a minimum of 313 ships to meet operational requirements globally. Under the current budget proposal, the Navy won't reach 300 ships until 2019. During today's hearing, Admiral Greenert warned that defense sequestration will cause the Navy to slash the number of ships to approximately 235 ships.
Senator Ayotte said, "Our current fleet cannot meet our national security requirements. Defense sequestration would cut approximately 50 more ships, endangering our defense industrial base, our shipyards, and ultimately our national security."
She highlighted for Admiral Greenert the value of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to the nation's military readiness: "I'm very proud of the maintenance performed at the Shipyard and the excellent work done at Portsmouth on the Virginia Class submarine, which is the backbone of our nation's attack submarine force."