US Navy Cancels Carrier Group Deployment, Saturday Air Strikes

Ok, they haven’t; gone as far as canceling Saturday air strikes, ala the Post Office. But they did cancel the deployment of an entire carrier battlegroup.

The Secretary of the Navy announced that the Navy will be postponing the deployment of the USS Harry S. Truman and the carrier battlegroup built around the flagship, citing budget pressures.

The decision slashes the force projection and strike power of the U.S. Navy’s 5th fleet by about half, reducing the number of deployable carriers from two to one.

The U.S. Navy’s 5th fleet is usually assigned to cover the Persian Gulf/Indian Ocean region, and is the fleet most concerned with a brewing conflict with the Iranian government as it pursues the development of nuclear weapons. The U.S. Navy is certainly concerned with communicating U.S. resolve to the mullahs of Iran. But in cancelling the deployment of the Truman battlegroup, the Navy is also firing a shot against the bow of both Congress and the Obama Administration. The message is this: If the projected budget cuts go through, along with the forced spending reductions of sequestration under the Budget Control Act of 2010, the Navy’s ability to project American power around the globe will be dramatically slashed.

If it comes to pass, sequestration would force the Pentagon to slash its budget by $500 billion over the next 10 years. This would be on top of the $487 billion the Department of Defense has already cut.  Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has been outspoken, warning Congress that the Department of Defense would not be able to execute the combat missions assigned to it by the Central Command Authority under their 2012 guidance.

The Truman has not deployed since 2010, but the carrier strike force has just completed a series of pre-deployment sea trials. The USS Eisenhower has only recently returned from its deployment to the Persian Gulf, and will turn right around to relieve the USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group – operating in the Truman’s place.

The result is likely to put significant strain on families of sailors and marines aboard ships in the Eisenhower strike group, and the decision has some sailors and spouses griping.

“As a sailor from the Stennis, doing back to back deployments with the first deployment being 7 months and second one going to be around 8 months and gone for the holidays for 2 years in a row affected my decision to reenlist,” wrote one individual on the Navy Times’ article announcing the decision.  “Bring the Stennis home already they deserve to be home with their families too.”

Meanwhile, the Navy has also announced that it is reducing its targeted vessel count to 306 ships – down from the 313-ship level it has targeted since 2005. Part of the reduction comes due to a reduction in littoral combat ship requirements, fed by a reduction in planned support to the African theatre.

Currently, the Navy is actually fielding 288 ships – many of them are aging and struggling under the strain of wear and tear on equipment, which hampers their ability to accomplish the mission. The blog chronicles the difficulty of a carrier, the USS Bataan, in accomplishing the mission demanded of it because of a critical breakdown in its water desalinization plant.

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