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The Naval Air Systems Command is still grappling with fiscal challenges, after Congress allowed budget cuts known as sequestration to go into effect last year, according to NAVAIR Comptroller Theodore J. Short Jr.
Funding shortages have led to what Short called gaps in planning and paying for products and services, delaying the process of getting products to sailors and Marines, and slowing the flow of dollars to the defense contracting community.
It’s not ideal, Short said. “But, it could have been a lot worse.”
He spoke to a public audience, many of them defense contractors, at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center early Tuesday during an event hosted by The Patuxent Partnership. As the Navy consolidates its financial records, he said, the service is becoming more transparent, a process Short said is beneficial to taxpayers.
Headquarters government staff could be reduced by 328 full-time workers Navywide in fiscal year 2015, with 57 of those cuts happening at NAVAIR, said NAVAIR public affairs officer Karen Carow. Additional workforce reductions are planned for contractor support, as well.
Travel also has been cut by 50 percent, since its $144 million allowance in 2010, she said.
It’s still too soon to tell if that cut is too drastic, Short said.
Meanwhile, the command is also dealing with a voluntary exodus of employees and has been forced to recruit staff in engineering, logistics and test and evaluation, Short said.
It’s possible that some requests for funding to purchase a predetermined numbers of aircraft — such as the P8 now being used to search the seas for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 — and weapons could be drastically reduced or go unanswered. The command is going to request those funds back, Short said.
“There is still a lot of uncertainty,” Short said. Creating a fiscal plan for the command used to be more orderly and sequential, he said Tuesday. Now, there is “a lot of chaos” within the process.
And if an agreement isn’t reached in the coming months, Short said, federal workers and defense contractors may have to brace for another major budgetary battle for fiscal year 2016, Short said.
A relatively short-term budget agreement in Congress has helped the Navy avoid more severe cuts, Short said. And, there is the potential for additional funding to come in through other areas, such as the President’s Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative. “But we’ll have to see how that plays out,” Short said.
The NAVAIR budget for fiscal year 2015 is at $22.88 billion, which is 18 percent below what was projected last year.