Budget Cuts Should Not Compromise Safety, Naval Officers Told

Adm. Bill Gortney said it was the responsibility of officers “to assess if and when [their] command is approaching the limits of safe operation" and encouraged them to “exercise [their] authority to suspend operations to prevent mishaps." Adm. Bill Gortney said it was the responsibility of officers “to assess if and when [their] command is approaching the limits of safe operation" and encouraged them to “exercise [their] authority to suspend operations to prevent mishaps." Defense Department file photo

The head of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command told naval officers on Wednesday to maintain operational safety even as they begin to execute and manage across-the-board budget cuts from sequestration.

Adm. Bill Gortney said it was the responsibility of officers “to assess if and when [their] command is approaching the limits of safe operation" and encouraged them to “exercise [their] authority to suspend operations to prevent mishaps."

"One hundred percent of fleet mishaps in the past six months have been a result of human error," Gortney said. "It is imperative that you keep your people focused on the tasks at hand and eliminate distractions from those things they are unable to influence, like the fiscal climate."

Gortney also emphasized that the possibility for civilian furloughs at Fleet Forces Command remained real and that sequestration would affect many elements in the service.

Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, wrote in an August 2012 paper that sequestration would force higher than normal cuts on the military’s operations and maintenance budget because that money is usually spent in the same fiscal year it is appropriated. Military leaders have long argued that sequestration would affect money allocated for military equipment and repair.

In February, Gortney told the Fleet Forces Command that “the vast majority of deployments will be unaffected” in fiscal 2013 by budget sequestration, but noted that changes might be necessary. Already, fiscal uncertainty forced the Navy to postpone the deployment of a carrier strike group, and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus outlined other actions the service was taking to help manage the budget gap. 

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