The Japan-based USS George Washington would be the only U.S. aircraft carrier able to respond to a crisis anywhere in the world if billions in automatic spending cuts take effect next month.
There are usually at least three crisis-ready carriers — one for the Atlantic and two for Pacific, one based in Japan, and one in California or Washington state, according to Stars and Stripes.
A Jan. 25 document on sequestration, requested by Stars and Stripes from Navy officials, calls for only one carrier strike group and one amphibious ready group, both of which would be Japan-based, to be crisis-ready by Oct. 13. So there wouldn’t be a carrier available to help in the event of an Atlantic-based crisis, and there would be no additional carrier group available if multiple incidents occur in the Pacific.
Deployed carrier operations in the Mideast have already been cut with the delay of the USS Harry S Truman’s deployment this week and the announcement that the pentagon will no longer keep two carriers in the Persian Gulf.
During the past few years, Navy ships have been tasked with semi-regular disaster relief missions in Asia, as well as patrolling in the midst of increasingly bitter squabbles over territory claimed by U.S. allies in the Western Pacific. Carriers based along the U.S. Pacific coast have repeatedly ventured to the Western Pacific.
“There could be, for the first time in my career, instances where we may be asked to respond to a crisis and we will have to say that we cannot,” Adm. James Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a U.S. Naval Institute convention in San Diego on Tuesday.