Washington, DC - Presence remains the mandate of the Navy and the service must operate forward "when and where it matters," the chief naval officer testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee here today.

However, sequestration in 2013 not only whittled the Navy's contingency response force to one third, but forced reductions in afloat and ashore operations, generated ship and aircraft maintenance backlogs, and compelled the Navy to extend unit deployments, Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert said.

"Sequestration resulted in a $9 billion shortfall in 2013, below our budget submission ... degraded fleet readiness and created consequences from which we are still recovering," the admiral said.

Long Deployments

Greenert also described carrier strike groups, amphibious-ready groups and destroyers experiencing eight- to 10-month, or longer, deployments. "This comes at a cost of our sailors' and our families' resiliency; it reduces the performance of the equipment and it will reduce the service lives of our ships," he said.

The Navy's fleet readiness likely will not recover from the ship and aircraft maintenance backlogs until about 2018, five years after the first round of sequestration, according to Greenert.

"We reduced procurement of advanced weapons and aircraft, [and] we delayed upgrades to all but the most critical shore infrastructure," the admiral said. "The end result has been higher risk [to] those missions requiring us to deter and defeat aggression and ... project power despite an anti-access, area-denial challenge."

Forward Presence Provides Value

Still, recent events speak to the value of forward presence, Greenert asserts.

"When tasked in August, the George H.W. Bush Strike Group relocated from the Arabian Sea to the North Arabian Gulf and was on station within 30 hours, ready for combat operations in Iraq and Syria," Greenert said.

Additionally, Navy and Marine Corps strike fighters from the carrier generated 20-30 combat sorties per day and for 54 days represented the only coalition strike option to project power against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the admiral said.

Greenert highlighted the USS Truxtun, which arrived in the Black Sea to establish a U.S. presence and reassure allies within a week after Russia invaded Crimea. He recounted the USS George Washington Strike Group's dozen ships that provided disaster relief to the Philippines in the wake of super typhoon Haiyan just over a year ago.

Overall, he said, a return to sequestration further delays critical warfighting capabilities, further reduces contingency response force readiness and jeopardizes ship and submarine procurement.

"Unless naval forces are properly sized, modernized at the right pace ... ready to deploy ... and capable to respond in the numbers and at the speed required by the combatant commanders, they won't be able to answer the call," Greenert said.