Fiscal woes force US to cut naval presence in Persian Gulf

Deteriorating financial woes in the United States have forced Washington to reduce its military presence in the Persian Gulf.

The news comes after the US administration was forced to sign into effect the spending cuts known as the sequester on Friday, which will take USD 85 billion from the US federal budget in 2013.

About half of the cuts, USD 46 billion, will affect the US military sector, the most sensitive of which includes the altered plans for deployment of Pentagon’s naval assets.

While Pentagon had been previously considering plans to assign two of its 10 aircraft carriers to be dispatched to the Persian Gulf, the giant budgetary cuts have now forced the Defense Department to deploy only one of those aircraft carriers in the region, The Telegraph reported on Saturday.

Based on the new agenda, the nuclear-powered USS Harry Truman and its 3,360 officers and crew will stay at home, while maintenance work on another docked carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, has also been postponed due to the cuts.

"Let me make it clear that this uncertainty puts at risk our ability to effectively fulfill all of our missions,” said new US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at his first news conference on Friday.

“We will be forced to assume more risk, with steps that will progressively have far-reaching effects," he added.

Hagel noted that in an attempt to make up for the USD 46-billion cuts, four Navy air wings would gradually stop flying, the Air Force would promptly cut flying hours, the Army would reduce training and nearly all Pentagon's 800,000 civilian workers would be required to take unpaid leave.

“The Army will curtail training for all units except those deploying to Afghanistan, adversely impacting nearly 80 percent of Army operational units," Hagel added.

Republicans have lashed out at President Barack Obama’s administration for playing politics with national security by targeting highly-sensitive projects, such as aircraft carrier deployments.

Other defense officials, including more than 40 prominent former Republican officials and national security leaders have warned against the dire consequences of the cuts and cautioned the White House and Congress that sequestration “will result in unacceptable risk for US national security.”

If Republicans and Democrats fail to agree on a solution to reduce America’s USD 16-trillion national debt, the US will face mandatory cuts of USD 1.2 trillion over the next decade.

If the USD 1.2-trillion cuts in federal spending are implemented over the period, the Pentagon budget will face a total reduction of USD 500 billion over 10 years.


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