By Julian E. Barnes
The Pentagon's decision to delay the deployment of a carrier to the Middle East could give opponents of the sequester some added ammunition in their battle to undo the across-the-board Pentagon spending cuts.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, called the decision to delay the carrier deployment "deeply disturbing."
"I hope what has happened here with these very stark examples of how [the sequester] is going to undermine our national security will move people to resolve this," Ms. Ayotte said. "There are ways forward."
On Wednesday, Ms. Ayotte and other Republicans from the Senate and House armed services committees unveiled a plan to delay the sequester until September, replacing the Pentagon cuts with reductions in the size of the federal work force through attrition. The sequester was enacted as part of the 2011 agreement raising the debt ceiling in exchange for deficit-reduction measures. Cuts totaling $85 billion are scheduled to start March 1 and run through Sept. 30; after that, about $110 billion in annual spending cuts would kick in.
Ms. Ayotte has been outspoken on the need to repeal the across-the-board spending cuts and the damage they would do to military readiness. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, she said Iran's threats to close the Strait of Hormuz and its continued work on its nuclear program have necessitated a major naval presence in the region.
"This is a compelling example of how sequestration is dangerously undermining our national security and frankly the security of the world," she said. "We have had two carriers in the Persian Gulf area for two years because of the threats we face in the region, including Iran marching toward a nuclear weapon."
The sequester, Ms. Ayotte said, will reduce the readiness of the Navy-meaning more ships at port in the United States will be unable to deploy if needed.
"What the sequester does is reduce our combat power," Ms. Ayotte said. "There will be portions of our fleet that will not be combat ready."