The Defense Drumbeat Blog

Jan 10 2013

Defense Cuts Have Navy Struggling to Maintain Middle East Carrier Presence

Obama Administration Strategy At Odds With Cuts

In a recent story, the Washington Times explored the effects of the current aircraft carrier shortage on sailors and the broader U.S. security strategy. Despite $487 billion in defense cuts signed into law in 2011, the Navy’s responsibilities in the Middle East remain unchanged by the Obama Administration.

Aircraft Carrier Fleet Not Sized to Match Strategy
“Sailors and Marines serving on aircraft carriers can expect long deployments for the next few years because of ongoing crises in the Middle East and a shrinking number of carriers available for duty. …That has reduced the U.S. fleet of carriers from 11 to nine, as the Navy struggles to maintain a two-carrier presence in the Middle East as required by the Obama administration since 2010.”

“However, the end of the two-carrier presence in the Middle East is not likely anytime soon. The carriers are deployed there to deter Iran from acting on its threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway through which a fifth of the world’s traded oil transits; to intervene if Syria’s regime unleashes chemical weapons in its 22-month-long civil war; and to host fighter jets that provide close air support to troops in Afghanistan.”

“'We need 11 carriers to do the job. That’s been pretty clearly written, and that’s underwritten in our defense strategic guidance,' Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, said recently.”

Sailors Face Longer Deployments
“Carrier deployments have lengthened gradually over the past decade, from six months to as long as nine months.”

“Adm. Greenert said it will be at least two or three years before carriers return to six-month deployments, as the Navy strains to keep operational its flattop fleet and the battle groups of combat and supply vessels that support their missions.”

“Adm. Greenert said the frequency of deployments, known as ‘operational tempo,’ is higher than he expected 14 months ago when he became chief of naval operations, and the two-carrier presence in the Middle East needs to be reconsidered.”