US naval aviation to take hit in fiscal year 2014 budget

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Naval aviation operations, maintenance and procurement accounts will all take a hit in fiscal year 2014 under Congressionally-mandated sequestration budget cuts, says chief of naval operations Adm Jonathan Greenert.

"We'll cancel a lot of aircraft availabilities - about 190," the service's top uniformed official said at the American Enterprise Institute on 5 September. "Last year we cancelled about 90, so we're getting a backlog that is concerning."

Even if the budget were to be restored overnight, it would take the USN more than five years to catch up on deferred aircraft maintenance, Greenert says.

Naval aviation training for non-deployed forces will also be sharply cut back, and a number of carrier air wings will be required to operate at a reduced readiness level.

"We'll have some air wings that'll go to what we call tactical hard deck," Greenert says. That means pilots will train to a point just above the minimum standards required to ensure safety of flight, although the air wings should be able to ramp up training quickly if they need to deploy, he adds.

The situation is "sub-optimal", but Greenert says he will fight to reprogramme more money for naval aviators to train if at all possible.

Aviation procurement accounts will also take a hit. The USN will lose about 25 aircraft, including cuts to its Lockheed Martin F-35C and Boeing P-8 buys. "There isn't any [type] that won't probably be lost," Greenert says.

Overall, the navy's budget will be chopped by $14 billion in 2014, compared with $11 billion in FY2013. But unlike in the previous budget year, there is no leftover money from prior years to cushion the blow, Greenert says. With manpower being exempt from cuts, other accounts will take a 14% hit, rather than the overall 10% reduction mandated by the sequestration law.