Authors: Carmen Cox
(WASHINGTON) -- The budget uncertainty in Washington has led Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to indefinitely postpone the deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman to the Middle East. The delay also means that the Navy will now have to keep one carrier in the region as opposed to the two-carrier presence it has maintained there the past two years.
The carrier and the cruiser USS Gettysburg were to have deployed this Friday from their home port of Norfolk, Va., for a six-month deployment to the Middle East. A Defense official said halting the carrier’s deployment will save the Navy several hundred million dollars over the course of the year.
Pentagon spokesman George Little announced the delay in a statement, saying Panetta had approved it at the Navy’s request.
“Facing budget uncertainty – including a continuing resolution and the looming potential of $600 billion in across-the-board sequestration cuts – the U.S. Navy made this request to the secretary and he approved,” said Little.
He added, “This prudent decision enables the U.S. Navy to maintain these ships to deploy on short notice in the event they are needed to respond to national security contingencies.”
The delay in sending the carrier is the most tangible sign that the military’s operations could be affected by the automatic defense spending cuts that would be triggered on March 1.
In preparation for sequestration, the Pentagon has already instituted a hiring freeze and authorized the layoffs of 46,000 temporary workers. Panetta warned that if sequestration takes place, the department’s 800,000 civilians will have to miss as many as 22 days of work and could face a 20-percent cut in their salaries.
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