NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - Navy officials told WAVY.com several carrier air wings have been spared closure due to sequestration, at least for the time being.
According to Rear Admiral Ted Branch, some flexibility was given by Congress to move around money in the Navy and keep jets afloat. The modified Continuing Resolution approved by Congress has allowed the Navy to back off its plans to ground four carrier air wings.
The groups targeted originally included Carrier Air Wings from the USS Eisenhower, USS Ronald Reagan, USS Stennis and the USS Carl Vinson.
However, two Norfolk-based air wings could be limited to what the Navy calls the "tactical hard deck." Essentially, that would limit each air crew to only 11 hours of flying per month.
"If we go down to less than 11 hours per month, per air crew, we experienced a significant increase in the mishap rate. So that seems to be the sweet spot," Branch told WAVY.com.
Branch said the air wings farthest away from operational deployment would be targeted.
"For example, Air Wing 7 when they come back with USS Eisenhower... they will look at a tactical hard deck first," Branch said.
Reduced flying degrades both safety and readiness, but the Navy will find savings on the "hardeck," according to Branch.
"With the air wings that we're talking about it saves about $2 million a month," Branch said. "If we have the same situation next year we will increase the size of that bow-wave. It will just get worse."
The navy still must find $80 million in savings for the six months left in this fiscal year.
Branch said he is hopeful that they will be able to reduce or perhaps even eliminate furloughs for the civilian workforce that is an important part of naval aviation.
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