Sen. Kelly Ayotte is warning that deep, mandatory defense spending cuts could lead to “devastating” consequences for important Navy shipbuilding operations in New Hampshire and elsewhere if not reversed by the end of the year.
The New Hampshire Republican, speaking in a teleconference call with reporters Thursday, said the cuts expected to reach more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years, would lead to another round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) proceedings likely to be more widespread than ever before.
“If we go through this, we’re facing at least two more BRAC rounds,” she said, according to a report in the New Hampshire Union Leader
. “It guarantees BRAC. This is like BRAC on steroids.”
The BRAC hearings, she warned, would once again put the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on the chopping block unless Congress and President Barack Obama move to stop so-called “sequestration” cuts from taking effect automatically.
The mandatory cuts are the result of the congressional supercommittee’s failure last year to agree on $1.2 trillion in budget savings.
Ayotte, a member of the Senate Armed Service Committee, said overall the cuts amount to about $500 billion to $600 billion over the next 10 years, in addition to $487 billion in cuts already scheduled to take place.
She said the Navy could expect to lose about $15 billion a year, which is about what it spends on shipbuilding each year.
Ayotte told reporters that Navy officials estimate the current fleet of 285 ships would be reduced to 235 over the next 10 years it the spending reductions are carried out.
That would be the smallest U.S. Navy fleet since 1915. Ayotte stressed that Navy believe that 313 ships are needed to adequately meet defense needs, the Union Leader reported.
“Each year our fleet would get smaller and smaller at a time when Naval presence is incredibly important when we see what China is investing in it and with what we see happening around the world,” Ayotte said, describing the cuts as “a meat ax approach across all accounts.”
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