Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus met with hundreds of sailors at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton Wednesday afternoon where he spoke briefly and performed a re-enlistment ceremony.
Fire Controlman 2nd Class Elizabeth Rupert said it was a “total honor” to be able to meet the secretary.
“He said a lot of things that are relevant to ordinary sailors like ourselves,” she said. “He said we’ll be taken care of and our families will be taken care of.”
Speaking to the media after the closed ceremony, Secretary Mabus said he talked about the budget which he said is on everybody’s mind, but also let them know that no active duty sailor, Marine or family will receive pay or benefit changes.
“But, it will have some big effects on the Navy,” Mabus added.
He said that should sequestration, or across the board cuts, occur in March the Navy will lose about $4 billion. In addition, Congress’ failure to pass a 2013 defense budget, and instead choosing to act under what’s called a continuing resolution, will spell another $4.6 billion loss to the Navy.
“If either or both of those go into effect it’s going to mean fewer shipyard availabilities at places like Puget Sound Naval Shipyard,” Mabus said.
Mabus also talked about an announcement by the Secretary of Defense earlier in the day.
“The USS Truman and her strike group will not be going to the Arabian Gulf on Friday as scheduled and we’ll have only one carrier in the gulf,” he said. “This is a good example of what is happening because of the uncertainty of the budget.”
Sec. Mabus noted that a civilian hiring freeze has already gone into effect, but sequestration and the continuing resolution could bring the possibility of furloughs which he said, “would seriously hit the income and morale of civilian workers.”
At one point, Sec. Mabus was asked whether the worst-case budget scenario is the most likely scenario for the Navy.
“I think we have to prepare and plan and take some action now in case the worst-case scenario happens,” he said. “I’m truly hopeful that the worst case does not.”
It wasn’t all doom and gloom at Wednesday’s event, though. Sec. Mabus noted that he made a point of telling the sailors and Marines how proud he and the country are of what they do.
“Fewer than one percent of Americans serve in uniform today and they don’t get to see enough of what the Navy and Marine Corps do on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “We are America’s away team and they don’t get to see how good, how professional, how talented and skilled and educated and how dedicated this Navy and Marine Corps team is. It’s the most formidable expeditionary fighting force the world has ever known.”