Union Tribune

February 25, 2004

Navy official denies smaller fleet and fewer sailors means cutting Navy

By OTTO KREISHER
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON A senior Navy officer argued Tuesday that the leadership's plans to eliminate thousands of sailors and shrink the fleet did not mean they were "cutting" personnel or "downsizing" the Navy.

Vice Adm. Charles W. Moore, the deputy chief of naval operations for fleet readiness, also said he did not believe that a smaller Navy would reduce the opportunities for promotions or that the new policy of keeping six carrier battle groups ready for rapid deployment would increase the uncertainty for Navy families.

In a session with defense reporters, Moore was asked about the impact of the Navy's proposal to cut its authorized personnel strength by more than 10,000 over the next few years. Navy leaders also have been retiring still-serviceable ships faster than the shipbuilding schedule can replace them, resulting in the smallest fleet since before World War I.

"The word 'cut' is about as negative and wrong a way to think about the concepts I've been talking about as you can come up with," Moore said.

"We are not cutting manpower. We're shaping manpower in response to a human resource strategy that we think works now and will work in the future," he said.

"None of us believe we are downsizing the Navy," Moore added. "We, in fact, are increasing the capability of the Navy."

Although they are "in the short run, looking at some reduction in manpower," he said, "in no way, shape or form does any of that lead me to conclude that that will lead to fewer promotions. In fact it would seem to me to be intuitive to mean more promotions."

But, the Fleet Reserve Association, an organization that advocates for Navy personnel, said it was "concerned about the Navy's proposal to reduce the number of active duty and reserve billets by nearly 10,000 in 2005, and proposed cuts in 2006 and beyond."

"In the face of today's demanding operations tempo, FRA believes these cuts may negatively impact overall readiness, the morale of sailors and their families, and may adversely affect future recruitment and retention," the association said.

FRA said it also was "aware of uncertainties within the force regarding the requirements of implementing the fleet response plan," the new policy of having half of the carrier force ready for unscheduled deployments.

Moore, the longest serving pilot in the Navy, said the naval services would save money by having their pilots spend more time in flight simulators and less time in the air, while producing more combat-ready aviators.

Although the Navy has used simulators increasingly over the years to train aircrews and other personnel, the high-tech devices could not be used for the tests required to demonstrate combat readiness. A change in policy now allows readiness credit from the simulators, instead of actual flights, he said.

Retired Vice Adm. P.D. Smith, president of the Association of Naval Aviation, said he had resisted a similar change while a senior officer in the Navy P-3 patrol community. But, after watching the results, he said, "I was converted. I thought the crews were better qualified."

Moore said he has been directed to study the way the Navy does major maintenance of its ships and aircraft and believes most of current policies will have to change. But when asked if the Navy still would need all of its government shipyards and aircraft repair depots, he said, "I don't know the answer to that."