Region, MIDPAC: Opportunities amidst fiscal challenges
By Rear Adm. Frank Ponds Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific
Senior Navy Leaders are addressing the challenges of a year-long Continuing Resolution.

Last week, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert provided guidance on near-term, reversible actions being taken now in the face of an extended Continuing Resolution. In March the Navy also faces the possibility of significant additional budget reductions because of sequestration.

At MIDPAC we are belt-tightening by planning for delayed ship maintenance of the guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee, expected to defer $35 million in costs this fiscal year. Although this needed maintenance may have to be postponed, planning for the work will continue so we can recover quickly when funding is provided by Congress.

Fuel costs are one of our greatest expenditures, so we will also look for more ways to conserve, optimize and innovate our operations and training on the waterfront. We need everyone’s help as we look for ways to save – without impacting mission readiness or force protection. The Navy in Hawaii continues to be a leader in renewable energy and conservation of resources, and we need to continue the momentum where we can.

As we balance ship operations, flying hours and general training in the face of the continuing resolution and possible sequestration, Navy leaders are acutely aware of the hidden costs these measures bring.

In his guidance published Jan. 25, the CNO made it clear that we must “preserve overseas and forward-deployed readiness to the maximum extent possible.” That means our stateside installations may feel a brunt of the budget shortfalls.

Until Congress passes an appropriations spending bill, we must take action immediately to reduce obligation rates of the Navy’s operation and maintenance (OMN) account at both Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Pacific Missile Range Facility.

In headlines and news stories, we see words like “cancel,” “curtail,” “defer,” “freeze” and “furlough” – with speculation of what may lie ahead for the remainder of this fiscal year. So, it is imperative we all stay aware and informed. We need clear facts about the current situation and plans to deal with potential budget shortfalls that may affect every region, including ours.

Vice Adm. William French, Commander, Navy Installations Command, recently directed region commanders to review base operating support contracts; defer phased maintenance; limit contract support services; defer vehicle maintenance; and curtail all regional facility sustainment, restoration and modernization projects until further notice. He authorized a civilian employee hiring freeze, reduction in temporary employee levels, and suspension of non-mission-essential travel.

Regions are to plan for a possible government-wide furlough of civilian personnel that might be one-day-per-week starting in April. Such furloughs, should they become necessary, would be centrally managed by DOD, and we would follow their guidance.

Vice Adm. French made it clear that we must target reductions to all available service and procurement contracts to the maximum extent possible before civilian furloughs will be considered.

Non-appropriated fund (NAF) activities are not directly involved in the continuing resolution and are exempt from proposed furlough actions, but there may be an impact to many NAF operations if there is reduced patronage and revenue. We can expect more guidance from CNIC in the weeks ahead.

All of these plans and discussions are measured and prudent, near-term and reversible. They are steps we must consider now, especially in the face of fiscal uncertainty in the future. They affect our waterfront and shore-front operations, including Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and other tenant commands.

The Department of the Navy is not alone in this challenge. The other services are being forced to take belt-tightening initiatives, too.

Fortunately, our top civilian and military leaders recognize that we are in the center of our Navy’s efforts to rebalance in the Pacific. Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific have critical mission-essential responsibilities for warfighting readiness. Our leaders know we must maintain our capability to operate forward while supporting fleet, fighter and family.

The CNO has asked for our “cooperation and collaboration” in meeting the budgetary challenges ahead. He and CNIC have pledged to keep us all informed.

I ask that each of you take the initiative to learn more on your own about what Congress is doing to pass an appropriations bill to fully fund the FY13 National Defense Authorization Act. Learn more by visiting the Navy Live blog (http://navylive.dodlive.mi l/) or other and sites. Read updates in Ho’okele. Stay informed, engaged and involved as we meet these challenges together.

Thank you for your ongoing support on behalf of our entire Navy ohana in Hawaii.

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