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Admiral: Cuts to impact reshaping Navy

| Tuesday, March 5, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
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Jonathan William 'Jon' Greenert is an admiral serving as the 30th Chief of Naval Operations.

Federal budget cuts that are “debilitating, sudden, steep” will hamper plans to reshape the Navy, the country's chief of naval operations said on Monday.

“We'll be smaller, but we have to be the best,” Adm. Jonathan Greenert, a Butler native, told a luncheon gathering in the Rivers Club, Downtown, sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh.

The sequestration that began last week dealt the Navy an $11 billion blow, including about $4 billion from its operations budget for the six months remaining in the fiscal year. The Navy already had budget constraints because Congress froze Defense Department spending at 2012 levels without a spending bill.

In all, the cuts reduced the Navy's budget by about 20 percent, Greenert said.

“We need a spending bill,” he said, noting that would allow him to move money from Navy investment accounts to operations for the rest of 2013 and then focus on crafting ways to adjust spending in 2014 and beyond to accommodate smaller budgets.

Still, the Navy will add to its fleet of 286 ships, said Greenert, who took his post in September 2011 and serves on President Obama's Joint Chiefs of Staff. About 40 ships are under contract or under construction, he said.

Bigger plans involve refocusing the Navy's efforts on the Asia Pacific, including relocating home ports from the U.S. East Coast to the West Coast and reaffirming relationships with Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Singapore.

The Navy has 53 ships in the western Pacific Ocean and intends to increase that to about 60, Greenert said.

“We need to be out and about, around the world, where it matters,” he said. “And that's where it matters the most.”

The Navy needs to have access to strategic maritime crossroads, such as the straits of Hormuz and Malacca, Yokosuka and the Suez Canal, he said.

“It's all about the economy,” Greenert said. “If there's a problem at one of these places, it affects the whole world.”

But the Navy needs more operating money so that it can put ships there, he said.

“It's how many ships we have forward that matter most. ... It's about being where it matters, when it matters,” Greenert said. “We're not unready overnight, and we are not weak. But we need to get back in balance.”

Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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