U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta decided to delay the deployment of an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf region to save money as budget cuts loom, Pentagon spokesman George Little said today.
The USS Harry S. Truman and the cruiser USS Gettysburg had been scheduled to leave the East Coast later this week, Little said in a statement. The Truman is based in Norfolk, Virginia, and the Gettysburg is based in Mayport, Florida, according to the Defense Department.
The decision will leave one carrier on duty in the region instead of the two that have been maintained there much of the time since the middle of last year.
The indefinite delay came in response to “budget uncertainty” generated partly from automatic across-the-board cuts that will begin next month unless Congress and President Barack Obama agree on an alternative deficit-reduction plan, Little said.
“This prudent decision enables the U.S. Navy to maintain these ships to deploy on short notice in the event they are needed to respond to national security contingencies,” Little said.
The delayed deployment is the latest cost-saving move the Pentagon has announced in response to the pending cuts that would shave about $45 billion from the Pentagon’s budget by Sept. 30.
The Pentagon has issued a memo authorizing the firing of temporary defense workers and furloughs for civilian employees.
Panetta today called the automatic cuts known as sequestration “the most serious readiness crisis in over a decade.”